The Istora Stadium in Jakarta is where some say the beating heart of badminton in Indonesia is. Naturally, home players receive the loudest cheers but it is also the place where shuttlers from around the world get supported by the most dedicated and passionate fans.
One particular fan of Reddy N. Sikki struck up a friendship with the Indian shuttler some years ago during competition in the capital.
“The spectators in Jakarta, whatever the environment, are amazing,” acknowledged Reddy.
“I’m in awe because every year when we come to Indonesia, whether we win or lose, the fans always encourage us and they are incredibly supportive.
“This particular girl wanted to see me at the hotel after my match because fans were not allowed on our side of the stadium. I thought ‘alright I’d like to meet you’ so she came to the hotel,” recalled Reddy of her first meeting with Nae Piliang.
“She asked what I could say in Bahasa (Indonesia). I knew a few words but I told her ‘if you teach me, I can I say it’. I was very keen to learn a few more phrases of the language.”
After three or four meetings, the two have established a sound relationship.
Reddy complimented how sweet and kind her biggest fan has been and continues to be, providing the 28-year-old with positivity and Bahasa lessons.
Unfortunately, strict COVID-19 protocols in place for all players and personnel necessitated a shift from the Indonesian capital to stage the DAIHATSU Indonesia Masters 2021 and Indonesia Open 2021 alongside the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2021 in a “badminton bubble” in Bali at the end of last year.
The new measures also meant fans could not attend matches at the Bali International Convention Centre.
For Reddy, that denied her an opportunity to catch up with Piliang in person.
But that did not stop her from remembering her friend.
“I wish I could have met you and had a little chit chat like last time, and eat some traditional Indonesian food, plus exchange presents I have brought from India. I wish we could have done that like last time, but hopefully, when measures ease, we can meet again,” her message to Piliang on Instagram read.
The support from Piliang means a big deal to Reddy. And she is already looking forward to their next get-together.
“Indonesian fans are very special in my heart. They treat us (Team India) like family. It’s incredible,” she said.