Three Balinese footballers have become viral symbols of religious tolerance in Indonesia after their unique take on the goal celebration was widely shared online.
Standing in a row, Bali United’s defender Ngurah Nanak (a Hindu), forward Yabes Roni (a Christian), and striker Miftahul Hamdi (a Muslim) were photographed celebrating Roni’s second goal during a recent win against Borneo FC.
In a silent political statement, the three men each demonstrated an act of prayer in each of their respective faiths, with a Facebook post of the image seen all over the world.
“Because different beliefs will not prevent us from achieving the same goals,” a caption under the photo in Indonesian reads.
The timing of the ecumenical celebration comes during a particularly fraught period of religious expression in Indonesia; the recent conviction of the Christian governor of Jakarta, who was sentenced to two years in jail despite prosecutors recommending the charge be dropped, has seen Indonesia’s moderate and secular government feel the squeeze from the rise of hard-line Islamist groups.
The Bali United celebration was designed to show people across the country that not only could members of different religions work together, but that they can also be friends.
“Even though we all come from different religions and ethnicities, we’re all one,” Yabes Roni told Indonesia’s Kompas.
“We have to protect the country’s harmony and stay united.”
Miftahuddin Halim, the photographer who snapped the moment, shared the players’ sentiments, adding that he was “glad that photo serves as an example for people. Soccer can unite the country.”
As far as FIFA is concerned, there is yet to be any negative kickback for the players’ religious celebration; while the footballing body has long shown a blind eye to any celebrating goal-scorer on the field thanking a higher power for guiding the ball to the back of the net, official rules do outlaw the extension of religious – and political – beliefs beyond simple gestures.
“Players must not reveal undergarments that show political, religious, personal slogans, statements or images, or advertising other than the manufacturer’s logo,” the FIFA rule book outlines.
Both FIFA and the Indonesian governing body for the game have yet to comment on the celebration.