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Jordi Amat exclusive: 'My grandmother told me that I was a prince... I thought it was an old wives' tale'

Jordi Amat exclusive: 'My grandmother told me that I was a prince... I thought it was an old wives' tale'

The former Swansea City defender is now recognised as royalty.

As the national anthem of Indonesia echoes around the 78,000-capacity Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, the captain of Southeast Asia's largest country looks over to see his grandmother in tears.

It is the afternoon of March 21, 2024, and Jordi Amat is watching from the stands ahead of a 2026 World Cup second round of Asian qualifying tie against neighbours Vietnam.

He knows how much this moment means. "Even though I didn’t play because of injury, my grandma was crying," Amat tells SPORTbible from his home in Johor. "She cries at every game because she is so happy. She still can't believe that we are both here, in Indonesia."

The former Swansea City defender is standing next to his grandmother, Isje Maas-Villanueva, as they celebrate the country's independence and unity with a rousing rendition of the Raya anthem – an uplifting call to work together as a nation.

Isje, 75, is understandably moved by the occasion. She grew up in Makassar, a port city located on the island of Sulawesi, but at the age of eight, she fled Indonesia during conflict and moved to Europe.

It was a big shock for her to leave everything behind and move to a new country, says Amat, although she eventually met a man called Wil Maas at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

Isje then fell pregnant at 18, meaning they had to get married. It was a difficult time.

“That’s how things were in those days,” she recalls. “The catholic tradition was still very strong at that time. No one believed the marriage would last; we hadn’t known each other very long and the cultural and age differences were considerable.

"Around us, we witnessed many relationships end as a result of economic developments and Marxist ideologies. A classmate of mine with a knack for statistics told me we had a 10 per cent chance of staying married for one year.

"I know many girls like me were forced to give up their babies in those days. Every time I read or hear about it, I become emotional."

Jordi with his grandmother, Isje. Image credit: Instagram/jordiamat5
Jordi with his grandmother, Isje. Image credit: Instagram/jordiamat5

More than two decades later, her grandson Jordi was born in Canet de Mar – a coastal region in northern Spain. Soon, he would meet his grandmother, who often spoke about their Asian heritage.

In fact, Isje told an understandably sceptical Amat that he was the crown prince of a region in Indonesia. It was something he thought was “an old wives' tale and nothing more."

Jordi smiles when the subject is brought up. "I was only five or six years old at the time and didn’t think she was telling the truth. But I remember her saying, 'You will see when you get older. You will come to Indonesia with me one day.’

"I eventually found out that she wasn’t joking."

When Amat was nearing the end of his contract at Belgian Pro League side K.A.S. Eupen in the summer of 2022, he sat down with his family and agent to discuss the future.

He can remember that moment like it was yesterday. "I said: 'Let's explore. We don't need to keep playing in Europe. There are more options.' Teams from Europe and Spain were interested but I was looking for a new experience after COVID.

"Eventually, after doing some research, this idea of playing for Indonesia cropped up and we decided to go ahead."

It soon became apparent that Isje was a descendent of Jacob Ponto, who was the 14th King of Siau.

In fact, Amat's great-great grandfather, Manalang Doelag Kansil, was the 17th Raja [a royal prince or ruler in parts of Asia] of the Sangihe Islands in North Sulawesi, and ruled as King of Siau between 1895 and 1908.

Image credit: Instagram/jordiamat5
Image credit: Instagram/jordiamat5

The former Premier League defender, who spent five memorable years in southwest Wales with Swansea, had previously made two appearances for the Catalonia national team under then-manager Johan Cruyff.

He also represented Spain at youth level and played for La Roja at the under-17 and under-20 World Cup alongside Isco, Koke and Sergi Roberto.

But the thought of playing for the birthplace of his grandmother was an intriguing one. Amat spoke to a local newspaper from Indonesia about the idea and things spiralled from there.

“It all happened very fast," he remembers. "We started looking into getting a passport here. It was a long process, more than a year, but after finding out about having royal relatives, I am now a citizen of Indonesia.”

Amat was officially welcomed as part of the Nusantara Sultanate Royal Council on 1 July 2022, being awarded the title of pangeran, which translates to 'prince' in English.

He would later obtain Indonesian citizenship through naturalisation in November 2022, meaning the name 'His Royal Highness Prince Jordi Amat Maas' was made official.

When I repeat that lengthy title during our chat, Amat shakes his head in disbelief. "I know," he laughs. "It's crazy."

Jordi Amat on the day of his Indonesian naturalisation.
Jordi Amat on the day of his Indonesian naturalisation.
Official confirmation of Amat's royal title.
Official confirmation of Amat's royal title.

The role of representing Siau, an island with a population of around 46,000 people, is still a relatively new one for the 32-year-old. He plays down being compared to a prince in Spain or England, who carry out royal duties on a daily basis.

But he's keen to make a difference in the coming weeks, months and years alongside the Raja.

“I want to take care of the people in Siau," Amat says. "It will be nice to try and do something related to football; perhaps help build a pitch for the kids. I want to visit the schools as well. If they don't have many facilities, then we can possibly change that.

"It's a very small island and you can't do everything but step by step, let's see what we can do.”

For the time being, Amat is based away from the island as he continues his club career away from Indonesia. However, the defender has not played down moving to Siau in the future.

“Some people have asked me if I want to eventually live in Indonesia," he says. "To be honest, I don't know yet. I'm enjoying my time here in Malaysia right now. I also love to be in Jakarta. It's a very nice country, and the people are super friendly.

"These last two years, I've been thinking about going into coaching after my playing days are over. I still have a lot of years to play football, so we'll see. What I do know is that I'll travel to Indonesia more than two or three times a year for sure.”

The population of Siau island was 46,234 in mid-2022. Image credit: Jordi Llorens
The population of Siau island was 46,234 in mid-2022. Image credit: Jordi Llorens

Shortly after obtaining his citizenship, Amat was called up by the Indonesia national team for a training camp in preparation for the AFF Championship. A month later, he made his debut against Cambodia in December 2022,

“We were playing at home in Jakarta," he recalls. "I remember singing the anthem. I was feeling so many things at that point. You need to be focused on the game but the feelings were so very strong. It was a special moment."

It didn't take long for some of his teammates to catch on to his new title.

“Some people from the national team call me pangeran, which means prince," he laughs. "Fans also put the pangeran comment on my Instagram posts. It's great to read these things.”

To be able to represent a country with more than 275 million people, and to wear the colours of a nation that gave so much to his wider family, is a dream come true for Amat.

He looks emotional as he speaks about the "crazy" support he receives on a daily basis. “It’s amazing not just for me but for my family," he says. “We receive so much love from everybody. And as a football player, you dream about this."

The ultimate dream for Jordi is to take Indonesia to a World Cup.

They currently sit second in Group F alongside Iraq, Vietnam and the Philippines as they try and qualify for the 2026 tournament in Canada, Mexico, and the Unites States.

Shin Tae-yong's side are one of the favourites to qualify for the next stage after picking up two wins from four games, and they'll be hoping for positive results when they face Iraq and the Philippines in June.

"We are a small country in terms of football. We are still growing so our dreams are quite far away but step by step we are building something special," Amat says.

“It's great to be part of this journey. Now, we need to show the people that we can do it. My main objective is to win something with Indonesia. I know we are capable.”

As well representing Merah Putih on 17 occasions since 2022, the former Espanyol defender has made a considerable impact at Malaysian Super League champions Johor Darul Ta'zim.

That special relationship with Johor, who lifted the most recent league title with 25 wins from a possible 26, started when he was considering his future in Belgium.

"I was completing the process with my passport and then, I don't know how but, they got in touch," he recalls. "I spoke to some agents around here and they said Johor was the best option. I couldn't say no. It's an amazing club."

He added: "They play Champions League football, so the facilities are top-class. You feel like you're in Europe. Our manager has a vision to change the football here. We've already won the league ten times in a row."

Although his arrival was met with some tension because of the intense rivalry between Indonesia and Malaysia at national level, Amat let his feet do the talking.

"At the start it was quite difficult," he admits. "But in the end, everyone was happy and I'm very proud to be here in Johor. I'm one of the captains of the team."

Image credit: Instagram/officialjohor
Image credit: Instagram/officialjohor

The future is bright for Amat, both on and off the pitch. The Indonesian national team are arguably the strongest they've ever been heading into the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

And later this year, Jordi will be honoured with another official ceremony in Siau, where family members from Spain, Holland and Indonesia will come together to celebrate his ascent to princehood.

It will be a proud moment for everyone, especially Isje, whose life has been determined by Indonesian norms and values. "For her, it is very special that I’m representing Indonesia," Amat says.

So, the question remains – after everything he's been through over the past two years, has being awarded the title of pangeran changed his life at all?

“It hasn't, not really," Amat grins, pointing towards his PlayStation as he prepares for an evening on the latest edition of Call of Duty. "I will always be the same person."

Featured Image Credit: Instagram/jordiamat5

Topics: EFL Championship, Espanyol, Football World Cup, La Liga, Premier League, Spain, Swansea City, Spotlight