FC Dallas’ Paes eager for a full-circle moment with Indonesia

As FC Dallas made a quick stop back in Frisco between a long LA trip and a jaunt up to Minnesota, it would be fair to assume goalkeeper Maarten Paes would have had desires to be half the world away.

On the morning I spoke to Paes, Indonesia had lost 2-0 to Iraq in the penultimate game of the second round of qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The Burn shot-stopper had already watched back the 4am Central Time kickoff from Jakarta. Tim Garuda were reduced to ten men early in the second half, and shortly after Iraq had taken the lead from the penalty spot. Young goalkeeper Ernando Ari felt the ire of the 60,245 fans in Gelora Bung Karno Stadium after conceding a second penalty – which was missed – before being left on the ground as Ali Jasim danced his way around Ari en route to his first international goal.

“I sent him a text on Instagram.” explained Paes on how he supports his hopeful team mates from afar. “I’m always like, ‘Hey bro, don’t worry. In the Asian Cup Under-23 you saved a lot. Just keep doing your thing. Keep going.’”

Paes dishes out praise, but is certainly deserving of some himself. Prior to the Minnesota United game, American Soccer Analysis’ goals added metric rated Paes’ 3.98g+ as third among all goalkeepers in MLS, and his shot stopping behind only New York City FC’s Matt Freese.


FB Ref compares MLS goalkeepers as part of the ‘next 14 competitions’ which includes the world’s top competitions outside of the big five European leagues. At the time of writing, Paes ranked in the 87th percentile for save percentage at 77.1% following three games in the past month that featured seven or more saves. He was also in the 84th percentile for post shot expected goals minus goals allowed – effectively measuring the quality of the shot rather than the positioning which xG uses, against the number of goals conceded. The former Utrecht man is even the only player in Major League Soccer to save multiple penalties through the first 15 games of the season.

Born and Bred

Naturalized footballers are often greeted with an air of caution as fans try to determine how ingrained in their new citizenship they are. The German-American recruits under Jurgen Klinsmann sometimes received a frosty greeting, while the scores of Brazilian players given residential citizenship by Qatar over the past decade came to the bewilderment of fans critical of the Qatari World Cup. For the Dutch players receiving Indonesian citizenship, there is far more history to it.

Dutch colonial rule in what is now the world’s fourth-most-populous nation lasted over 300 years until independence was gained in the aftermath of World War II.

Paes’ maternal grandmother, Nel Appels-van Heyst, grew up in East Java in the final ten years of the Dutch East Indies – including two years of Japanese internment in a camp for Dutch women and children. As camps were liberated, plans for the execution of female Dutch prisoners were discovered that would have begun eight days after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

Van Heyst would lose her mother in the final months of the war, before being reunited with her father in December 1945.

The daughter of Dutch nationals who settled in Indonesia, Paes’ grandmother was part of a cultural movement that brought Indonesian influences to the Netherlands. 

Serving as grandmother, godmother, and history tutor, Paes’ own Indonesian heritage was instilled in him from an early age with weekly meals in addition to the widespread Indonesian influence on Dutch cuisine.

Paes and his siblings took trips with Nel and grandfather Joseph, including returning to Indonesia.

“We had a very special connection, a very special bond,” said Paes. “Because there’s also a history of a war and everything, she was always very quiet, but with me she could talk about everything. I was a listening ear about some stuff that crept in, but she always spoke very highly of her time there, especially before the war.”

Before passing away in February, Paes was encouraged by his grandmother to pursue an international soccer career for her homeland as he explained to Abraham Nudelstejer of the Dallas Morning News.

Oranye Indonesia

Erick Thohir is a name familiar to MLS circles. As co-owner of DC United, he brought Wayne Rooney and Lucho Acosta to the league, and played a part in DC’s move from the aging RFK to Audi Field. As an owner at Inter Milan and the Philadelphia 76ers, his connections in the global sporting arena were proven.


Thohir was named Chairman of the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) in early 2023 and has identified the Netherlands as a key player in the advancement of the Indonesian game. A meeting last month with Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) Secretary General Gijs de Jong and a dozen Dutch-Indonesian players receiving citizenship only serve to reinforce that notion.

Of the 16 players coach Shin Tae-yong used against Iraq, nine were born in Europe. One other, Jay Idzes, was an unused substitute and Marc Klok missed out due to injury. The only positional group to exclusively feature Indonesian-born players is goalkeeper … Currently.

Departure Delayed

Maarten Paes’s citizenship was rubber stamped on March 18 along with that of Ragnar Oratmangoen and Thom Haye. Both players have since played twice for Tim Garuda while Paes has yet to receive his one-time switch from FIFA.

The PPSI are awaiting a hearing with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), effectively the supreme court for all sporting matters, after Paes’ one-time switch application was rejected. Former Utrecht team mate Daishawn Redan received a similar rejection for a switch to Suriname.

Both players were deemed to fall foul of a clause in the one-time switch that players must not have played an official game for their original nation after their 21st birthday. The phrasing is somewhat vague, leaving some room to define what an official game actually is. The general consensus is that an official game is restricted entirely to the senior team aside from age-group tournaments since those are specifically mentioned. 

Paes was named to the Dutch U-21 European Championship roster. The tournament was scheduled to take place in 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic took place in 2021 with the age eligibility frozen from the original time frame. Qualifying for the tournament was also delayed, ending in November 2020.

Paes was 22 at the time of the tournament but did not play as third choice goalkeeper. According to Article 19 of FIFA’s Commentary on the Rules Governing Eligibility to Play for Representative Teams:

19. “Participation” in a match requires a player to be fielded for any period of time.

19.1 A player is “fielded” in a match where they have physically played in the match, even for a matter of seconds, whether as a starter, or as a substitute for another player.

19.2 A player who was not fielded in a match, despite being named on the substitute bench, thus did not “participate” in the match.

19.3 Similarly, a player who has been called up to a representative team squad, but is not listed on the match start list as either a starter or substitute, did not “participate” in the relevant match.

So by FIFA’s definition Maarten Paes did not participate at the U-21 Euros in 2021. He did however participate in five qualifying games after turning 21. The gray area goes back to the definition of an ‘official game’.

Article 9 paragraph 2 says:

b-iii) at the time of being fielded for his last match in an official competition in any kind of football for his current association, he had not turned 21 years old;

So Paes did not participate in the tournament, but is qualifying for a youth tournament considered official competition? The definition further in Article 9 doesn’t really shed any further light:

63. The phrase “official competition” is defined in the FIFA Statutes as “a competition for representative teams organised by FIFA or any confederation”.

Without knowing the specifics of the PSSI case, surely clarification should be sought as to what is considered official competition, and can qualification for an official competition actually be official competition in itself.

On a semi-related note, surely the upcoming Olympics in Paris will produce more examples of players over the age of 20 exposed to what may or may not be considered official competition under a vague definition.

The CAS website does not list a hearing yet, but Paes is hopeful of making the next qualifying window in the first week of September after a 2-0 win over the Philippines booked their place in the third stage of qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Celebrity Status

In the days after the first look at the voter standings for the MLS All Star Game, Paes rocketed from fifth to first among goalkeepers behind a wave of Indonesian support.

The FC Dallas media emails feature links to coverage, and have been absolutely dominated by Indonesian outlets as recognizable as CNN. Every movement on a football pitch sees a slew of articles. Anything about the Indonesian national team includes a mention of Paes’ name. That attention is only amplified in person.

“It’s kind of crazy, especially when I went there a month ago to Jakarta,” said Paes with a wry smile. “It was tough for me to walk on the streets. When I was sitting in the lounge to fly back to Dallas the only news on TV was about me, so it was kind of uncomfortable but I’m also very honored to get that recognition. I try to be a good player, also a good person. I think it’s a country where I also want to contribute more than only soccer.”

While the lawyers and administrators work towards securing Maarten Paes’ international future with Indonesia, he remains focused on a busy summer for FC Dallas after the departure of Nico Estevez, and a hopeful All Star appearance buoyed on by his countrymen.

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