Southeast Asia Indonesia

A Bittersweet Christmas for Bali United Fans

Bali United fans were treated to a bittersweet Christmas by their club, as fan-favorite Melvin Platje was released following the expiration of his Serdadu Tridatu contract. Filling in the big Dutchman’s boots in the Bali United attack was Cameroonian Jean Befolo Mbarga, a goalscoring predator who had scored more than 100 goals in the Cambodian top-flight.

Having served Bali United for three and a half years, Platje was allowed to leave the club on a free following the conclusion of his contract this month, ending a tenure that saw the Dutchman score 24 times from 59 league games, win the 2019 Liga 1 Indonesia title, and being loaned out to Eerste Divisie side De Graafschap during the COVID-hit 2020 season.

“Representing the Bali United management, I would like to thank Melvin for his dedication and efforts whilst donning the Serdadu Tridatu jersey,” said Bali United CEO Yabes Tanuri in an official statement issued by the club, “Melvin was one of the key players when we won the 2019 Liga 1 title. Wishing Melvin all the best in his future endeavors.”

Replacing Platje will be Mbarga, whose goalscoring prowess was relatively unknown in Indonesia, but any C-League defender would tremble in fear at his presence.

Mbarga scored 73 league goals for Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng during his three years at the club, bagging the C-League Player of the Year award twice in 2019 and 2021 in the process as well as helping Svay Rieng to the 2019 C-League title. Taking into account his goals for fellow Cambodian sides Asia Euro United, Nagaworld, Angkor Tiger, and Western Phnom Penh, Mbarga had scored over 100 goals during his nine years in Cambodia.

Even fellow Southeast Asian sides weren’t spared from his bloodlust, as Mbarga scored twice for Svay Rieng in the eventually-scrapped 2020 AFC Cup. The Cameroonian scored once and assisted once as Svay Rieng stunned Bali United 2-1, before following it up by scoring the consolation goal in the Cambodian side’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of Than Quang Ninh.

It was Mbarga’s performance against Bali United that enticed the Serdadu Tridatu to land him in the Liga 1 mid-season transfer window, with the Gianyar-based club set to become Mbarga’s second club outside of Cambodia after a brief stint at Thai lower-league side Samut Prakan FC in the 2016/17 season.

Mbarga would hopefully link up a partnership with Ilija Spasojevic up top for Stefano Cugurra Teco’s men as they seek to defend their Liga 1 title this season. Signing a player who doesn’t have any experience in Indonesian football can be a gamble, but it is hoped that Mbarga would retain his shooting boots from Cambodia and score a lot of goals for Bali United in the remainder of the 2021/22 season.