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Stefer Rahardian: Inspired by the memory of his brother

Indonesian martial arts star is driven by the memory of his older brother and best friend

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Stefer Rahardian lost his father when he was just five years of age. An argument ensued between his father and his mother, leading to his father walking out. He never returned.

“He just left, and never came back. He did not even say he was leaving,” said the 31-year-old, sadly.

“The only thing I remember was he was fighting with my mum. He did not explain anything. He did not even say goodbye. I watched him go. I remember thinking, ‘Why are you leaving? How am I supposed to live without my father?’”

With his father gone, Rahardian’s older brother Erwin took over as Stefer’s father figure. His relationship with Erwin was a major factor behind Stefer taking up martial arts and making it all the way to the bright lights of ONE Championship.

“I saw him do his best for his family, and I decided I wanted to be like that too,” Rahardian says.

“My brother always said the basic stuff before I went to school. He told me to study. He told me not to be lazy. He said, ‘do not be a bad boy in school. Study so you can get a better job, and so you can get out of this neighbourhood.’”

As a Muslim at a Christian school, Rahardian often found things tough during his schooldays, as the difference in his faith marked him out as a target for the school’s bullies.

Erwin offered support to his younger brother, saving up to buy a Super Nintendo games console and spending countless hours playing with him and letting him know he always had a friend at home. They played FIFA 97, Super Mario Bros and Donkey Kong.

“The important thing was not the game,” Rahardian explained.

“He always supported me. He always had my back. When I went to school, I would always forget my textbook. If I called from school, he would bring it from home. He was always my friend.”

Then tragedy struck, as Erwin contracted a sore throat that saw him hospitalised. He fell into a coma a few days later then, after three months, he died. Rahardian was still only eight years of age.

“When he passed away, we had a tough time a couple of years after that,” the admitted.

“We were totally broke. There were hospital bills, and… I cannot explain how broke we were.”

Inspired by the memory of his brother, Rahardian resolved to never give up on his martial arts quest. Even when he was sidelined through injury, he stayed steadfastly committed to returning better than ever, and chasing his dream.

“He always tried his best to make me happy,” Rahardian says. “I owe him my happy memories.”

And on 12 May in Jakarta, Rahardian will be cheered to the rafters by his fellow countrymen as he looks to defeat India’s Himanshu Kaushik at ONE: GRIT AND GLORY.

But while the packed crowd at the Jakarta Convention Centre will offer their significant vocal support, it will be the memory of his older brother that will provide Rahardian’s greatest inspiration.

Interview by ONE Championship. Story by Simon Head.

Freelance sports writer and MMA reporter with 19 years’ experience in the UK's national media covering major sporting events including UFC world title fights, Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, UEFA European Championships, Grand National and the FA Cup Final.

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