Titus Jhon Londouw Bonai is an example of how optimism can make a great athlete…and great sportsman.
At 22, Bonai is young, energetic — and dangerous, when in front of the opponent’s goal. At the same time, he puts ego and aggression aside and is a gentleman on and off field.
And here he is doing what he loves the most after given second chance by the universe.
“I started to play soccer seriously in the fifth grade in Jayapura,” he said.
Bonai was no different from Papua’s other golden talents — lively on the pitch, strong, talented and in love with the game.
“I was a left winger back in the days when I entered Persipura U-15 and Persipura U-18, but I can play with both my left and right foot.”
He took things to the next level by joining Persipura’s U-21 club and the PON Papua team. All proceeded in a way that was organic; he was ready for a top slot on Papua’s number one team, which has been home to many beautiful soccer players from the province.
But then, during the 2007/2008 season, Bonai met with defeat. The coach at that time, Raja Isa, didn’t want him to be a part of the senior team.
“Raja Isa left me. He didn’t pick me for the team, so I had to go,” he said.
Bonai joined PKT Bontang, where he racked up success after success as a leading goal scorer, and then Persiram Raja Ampat, where he struggled against top flight competition. Bonai then received an unexpected telephone call from Persipura team captain Eduard Ivakdalam at the end of the season.
“I got a call from Kaka Edu. He asked me to come to a soccer game after the season finished,” Bonai said.
Eduard was (and is) a living legend, remembered by fans in Jayapura for his everlasting dedication to the team. The invitation to join the game proved decisive.
“Apparently lots of Persipura’s senior players played in that [last] soccer match. I thought it was only a game, a casual one. But immediately after that, Pak Rudy [Maswi] the manager came up to me. Bonai, are you ready to play with Persipura Jayapura?’” Bonai said.
“Well, as a local boy, I didn’t have anything else on my mind. Of course, I’m ready to come home if needed. I said yes, easily, and that I was very happy to finally play with Persipura’s senior team.”
After settling few things, Bonai officially bore Persipura’s standard again. It wasn’t easy, Bonai said. Once you leave Persipura there aren’t be any second chances.
Before the season started, Ivakdalam left the team and joined Persidafon Dafonsoro, Persipura’s close neighbor. Bonai didn’t have the chance to play with the legend that brought him home.
Bonai started a new season – also his first with the senior team – and then got called up to the national U-23 team. His debut went well; Bonai scored the only goal during a 3-1 loss at home to Turkmenistan in an Olympic qualifying match.
Suddenly, again, things changed 180 degrees. Bonai was fired by the head coach for violating club rules.
“I thought my national career was over,” he says.
Bonai came home and competed as a hungry striker for Persipura. In the second half of the season, he scored goal after goal to win the main striker position, playing side by side with Boaz Solossa, his idol.
“Kaka Boaz is a very good captain. He is very responsible and a good role model for a young player like me.”
His firing was a big lesson on himself.
“After that, I became more responsible to my life and my family’s life,” he said.
During that hard moment, Bonai’s wife, Novalia Metiaman, said she stood by her husband.
“I told him to see our little kid, and he needed to be responsible for the child. God has given him very good talent. He has to change,” Novalia said.
Not many people know that Bonai is a decent, religious family man. During the off-season, you can spot Bonai spending time with his daughter, Natalie Crissnalia.
“I use number 25 on my jersey because of Christmas. It’s her birthday,” Bonai said.
“She was in Jakarta few weeks ago but now she’s home in Jayapura. I don’t think she liked this city.”
Persipura won its season ender. The team’s fight in the Asian competition also continued until the quarterfinals, when the team went down to Iraq’s Arbil FC.
Noting Bonai’s tremendous performance, the national team recalled him. This time, the coach was Rahmad Darmawan, a marine who brought Persipura its first crown back in 2005.
“Bapak Rahmad knows how to handle us all. He’s a very good coach.” Bonai said.
“He keeps us all in a very responsible mode all the time. Like this afternoon: I told him that I needed to have lunch with my wife. He gave permission as long as I reported back to him before today’s training session began.”
“He’s just like Bapak Jacksen. He can make the team feel like a big family that everyone belongs to,” Bonai said, recalling Persipura head coach Jacksen Tiago.
Bonai’s enthusiasm is reflected in his game. He keeps the team level in hard times, like when he helps roommate and striking partner Patrich Wanggai, a notorious hothead, maintain his cool on the pitch.
“I’m always a calm player. If you play soccer there’s nothing you take seriously when you’re on field. If you don’t want to be tackled, then don’t play soccer,” Bonai said.
Novalia, who was sitting next to Bonai during the interview, said her husband had more sangfroid than she did. “It’s me who gets easily upset if someone tackles him. I normally shout at Facebook after the game. But he is very cool with it.”
Bonai has two unique signature moves on pitch – shaking the opponent’s net every time the team wins a corner and dancing after he scores a goal.
“While shaking the net, I say three times: ‘In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus’. It’s something I believe, that God’s with me all the time. It works, right?”
Dancing is something you cannot miss while watching Bonai play.
“He loves to dance, especially to African rhythms,” Novia said. Teammates Bio Paulin Pierre, Persipura center back, and Zah Rahan Krangar, Persipura playmaker turned him on to African music, she added.
Bonai said he had to dance. “I always express myself after scoring goal with that signature dance, there’s nothing else I can do.”
The dance brings luck and charm to any team that Bonai plays for. As for the future after the SEA Games event, he’ll be home with Persipura, preparing for the next season.
“I can’t wait to play with [striker] Beto [Alberto Goncalves] and Boaz next season. I won’t leave Persipura. Last time, I had so many offers on the table from Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia and Australia. When I asked my wife, she instantly burst into tears.”
“I cannot go.” he said. “Persipura is my home.”
Source: The Jakarta Post