Southeast Asia Indonesia

Remembering Comvalius’ Monster Goal Haul for Bali United

May 23rd, 2021. The Southeast Asian football fraternity was shocked by news that Dutch striker Sylvano Comvalius has decided to hang up his boots and call it a day. The 33-year old bowed out from the beautiful game having just experienced the best season of his life only four years ago.

Comvalius’ exit from football couldn’t have come at the worst time possible – his current club, Singapore Premier League side Geylang International, are currently struggling in the league. The Eagles have the third-worst goal productivity in the SPL and they could really use Comvalius’ help in front of goal especially with a campaign in the AFC Cup on the horizon, however in truth Comvalius has been on a steady decline ever since he had posted his best season in his career.

The year was 2017. Liga 1 Indonesia side Bali United were looking for a new striker following a so-so campaign in the 2016 Indonesia Soccer Championship. With the Indonesian league finally up and running after a period of limbo underneath a suspension from FIFA, Bali United are eager to finally show their mark on Indonesian football having only been formed in 2015, just before FIFA slapped their suspension on Indonesian football.

Prior to 2017, Comvalius had few experiences in Asian football, thanks to a stint at Kuwaiti side Al-Salmiya and Chinese club Fujian Smart Hero (now Cangzhou Mighty Lions). The presence of new signing Irfan Bachdim managed to entice Comvalius to Bali United, with the duo having played together in the Ajax Amsterdam academy during their youth. The arrivals of Stefano Lilipaly and Nick van der Velden gave Comvalius a sense of home-away-from-home at the Kapten I Wayan Dipta Stadium, while A-League veteran Marcos Flores was brought in to complete Bali United’s attacking trio for that year, which includes both Comvalius and Bachdim.

Previously, Comvalius has never hit more than 20 goals in a single season, however all of those would change in 2017. Despite not scoring in his debut, Comvalius scored in his second match, a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Persipura Jayapura, the Dutchman’s first match in front of the Semeton Dewata faithful.

The aftermath of the match saw head coach Hans-Peter Schaller being sacked from his job after two consecutive defeats that saw Bali United floundering in the relegation zone two matches into the season. However, that defeat to Persipura sparked something within Comvalius.

Underneath caretaker head coach Eko Purjianto, Comvalius scored twice in three matches, one in a win over Semen Padang and one in a defeat away at Mitra Kukar. The aftermath of the Mitra Kukar game saw Widodo Cahyono Putro being appointed as head coach with Eko resuming his assistant coach duties and underneath the tutelage of one of Indonesia’s legendary attackers, Comvalius exploded into life.

After a 3-match dry spell, Comvalius scored his first goal of the Widodo era in a 3-1 win away at Perseru Serui, bringing his tally of the season to four. A goal against Bhayangkara FC in a 3-1 home defeat then ensues, bringing Comvalius’ personal record to five goals after 10 games.

Then the unthinkable happened. After a brief dry spell in a 2-0 defeat away at Arema FC, Comvalius went on a rampage, scoring at least once in his next 11 games. These 11 games saw Bali United win 9 times, draw once, and lost only one game, a 3-1 defeat away at Persipura. However, the 11 matches saw one thing in common and that is Comvalius finding the back of the opposition’s net.

That 11-match scoring run saw Comvalius scoring braces against Barito Putera and Persela Lamongan, a hat-trick against Madura United, and a mind-boggling 5-goal haul as Bali United exacted revenge on Mitra Kukar for beating them earlier in the season by utterly destroying the Naga Mekes 6-1 at the Dipta.

Indonesia had their fair share of deadly foreign attackers – Uruguayan Cristian Gonzales was a threat in front of goal throughout the 2000s while Croatian Marko Simic is the most recent example of a competent foreign striker honed by the Liga 1. But none of them has the same bloodthirsty ruthlessness as Comvalius did.

Comvalius then scored 12 more times after that 11-match scoring streak, which included a brace against eventual champions Bhayangkara in a 3-2 defeat, a goal against Persija Jakarta, and a goal against Arema as Bali United thrashed the Singo Edan 6-1 at the Dipta.

At the end of the 2017 season – which saw Bali United finish 2nd and losing out on the title thanks to their inferior head-to-head record against Bhayangkara – Comvalius scored a total of 37 goals in the league, breaking the record for most goals scored in an Indonesian league season that was held by Peri Sandria’s 34 goal-haul for Bandung Raya in the 1994/95 season.

Comvalius’ explosive performance for Bali United inevitably attracted attention from all over the region and eventually it was Thai League 1 side Suphanburi FC who managed to land Comvalius into their grasps, with the War Elephants viewing him as an excellent replacement for Nicolas Velez who left them for Negeri Sembilan FA in Malaysia.

Unfortunately for Comvalius, his move to Thailand would prove to be the start of his career’s decline.

A combination of injury and loss of form meant that Comvalius was often overlooked by head coach Adebayo Gbadebo and eventually he was let go from Suphanburi in the halfway mark of the 2018 season, being replaced by Cleiton Silva, a man who has an excellent track record of scoring in the Thai League.

In his short stint with Suphanburi, Comvalius could only play 7 games and score zero goals.

Kuala Lumpur FA in the Liga Super Malaysia was Comvalius’ next destination, with the Dutchman joining the City Boys for the 2019 season. Unfortunately Comvalius’ stay at KL proved to be a short-lived affair as well, appearing 5 times and scoring once before being released as Kuala Lumpur were relegated at the end of the season.

Comvalius then tried his luck in Indonesia once again, hoping that he could rediscover his formidable form at the very country that elevated his name. Arema was the team who managed to snag Comvalius’ signature in the second half of the 2019 season and the Singo Edan tied him down to a 2-year contract.

That 2-year contract would prove to be a mistake as Comvalius could only score 5 times in 27 matches, though to his defense, he created a lot of chances and some of his passes were crucial in creating goals for Arema. With the Singo Edan unwilling to have Comvalius hanging around for the 2020 season but at the same time reluctant to terminate his contract, the striker was flogged off to Persipura on loan.

Unfortunately for Comvalius, COVID-19 forced the 2020 Liga 1 Indonesia season to be declared null and void, with the Dutchman only making 2 appearances and scoring no goals at all prior to the season being ground to a halt completely.

Sliema Wanderers in Malta was next and Comvalius headed there with hopes that he could remain close with his family in the Netherlands during the pandemic. Comvalius also had a decent scoring record in the Maltese league, having scored 14 goals across 2008/09 for Hamrun Spartans and 15 goals across 2009/10 for Birkirkara. Unfortunately for Comvalius, the Maltese league was curtailed due to COVID and Sliema themselves were riddled with financial issues, meaning that Comvalius had to leave the club with just 10 appearances and 2 goals to his name.

Comvalius then made a comeback to Southeast Asian football by signing with Geylang and after appearing 7 times and scoring twice for the Singaporean side, the Dutch striker made his decision to hang up his boots for good.

It is unknown on why Comvalius decided to call time on his career so abruptly. Did he fallen out with football as a whole? Did his injuries finally got the best of him? Or did he felt that he had reached his limit as a footballer? Regardless of reason, Comvalius’ agent, Khairul Asyraf, revealed through social media that the Dutch striker has terminated his contract with Geylang and is heading back to Amsterdam on Sunday.

Despite his dramatic fall from grace, Comvalius will always be fondly remembered as one of the best strikers that the Liga 1 Indonesia has ever had, despite being a mere one season wonder. His unrivaled goals tally and tenacity made him a huge personality within the Indonesian football scene and his arms crossed aloft celebration that he did each time he scored a goal will surely be missed.