Indonesian Messi aims high
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For many, Indonesia, placed 162 in the FIFA/Coca Cola World Ranking, may have little in common with two-time world champions Argentina in footballing terms. But, like Argentina, Indonesia have a track-record for producing prodigious pint-sized stars.

Andy Ramang and Bambang Pamungkas, to name a few, have dazzled audiences across Asia, even the world, through mesmerising runs and sublime skills despite their small physical stature.

And recently a new star is being heralded in the south-east Asian country. 21-year-old Andik Vermansyah, with a height of 163cm, has impressed so much in his attacking role for both club and country that he has been likened to Argentina and Barcelona star Lionel Messi, hence references to the 'Indonesian Messi' in the local press is commonplace.

"I have no idea how my nickname came about," a modest Vermansyah told FIFA.com recently during his trial with Japanese club Ventforet Kofu. “But to be honest it put a lot of pressure on me. I am not Messi, Messi is a great player. I still need to work harder and do my utmost to become a better footballer."

Beckham praises
Having said that, Vermansyah is by no means lacking in self-belief. Conversely, he is clear what he is capable of, having seen his seven-year playing career so far yield a series of enviable achievements.

Hailing from Jember, East Java, Vermansyah started with the youth squad of Persebaya in 2005. It didn't take the teenager too long to emerge in the local competition, when he steered his side to regional Youth League title two years later.

At the age of 17 he graduated to Persebaya's first team, with whom he scored a dozen goals during 47 appearances-not too bad a record for a young up-and-comer.

At the moment I am just thinking of becoming a good footballer, a consistent performer.
Andik Vermansyah

"My major strengths are my speed, my acceleration in pace and dribbling," admitted the diminutive player, who has become a fan favourite due to his agility, pace and shrewdness.

Even David Beckham is among those lauding his talents. After a friendly between Indonesian All-stars and Los Angeles Galaxy in November 2011, during which the former England captain competed against Vermansyah, Beckham swapped jerseys with the youngster.

After the game Beckham took time out to talk and congratulate the youngster on his performance. "This prompted a great deal of news and reports by media. Thank God, after this meeting I became even more popular and of course Beckham's words greatly boosted my confidence."

Fresh ambitions
That year saw him recruited by the Indonesia U-21 side. And he immediately made an impact in an international tournament in Brunei in 2012, scoring five times as Indonesian juniors finished runners-up in the ten-team Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy campaign.

He continued his progress thereafter, earning his call-up by the national senior side the same year. He exploded in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup, netting the match-winner against eventual champions Singapore although Indonesia failed to progress beyond the group phase.

He arrived in Japan earlier this month for a trial with Ventforet. "I am hoping to move to the J.League, although it depends on God, and the Ventforet manager to decide if I will be signed," he continued. “This is a great club and I feel welcomed here. The level of the game is quite high in Japan, the game is tight and the pace faster. And you are not allowed much space to dribble here as in Indonesia. I believe I will make great progress if I play here."

Asked if he has ambitions of surpassing the legendary duo of Ramang and Pamungkas, and becoming the new Indonesia hero, he simply answered: "This is not my goal now. At the moment I am just thinking of becoming a good footballer, a consistent performer. I hope I can be a good player for a long period like them."