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Talented Tanoto Finds Age Blocking Goal : At 29, Former Member of Indonesian Soccer Team Falls Victim to Division I Regulations

October 01, 1987|HEATHER HAFNER

Wahyu Tanoto has enough talent to play for any of the nation's top college soccer teams. He is experienced, disciplined and academically motivated. But the Glendale College sophomore won't play Division I soccer next season.

At 29, Tanoto is too old.

According to NCAA rules, every year an athlete over the age of 20 competes on an organized team, the athlete loses a year of Division I eligibility. And Tanoto had been a longtime member of the Indonesian national team before moving to the United States two years ago.

Division II soccer was never so lucky.

"A player with that kind of talent, explosiveness and that level of scoring ability could find a place in any Division I program," Cal State Northridge Coach Marwan Ass'ad said. "He's the kind of player we'd love to have."

And the Matadors possibly could have him if Northridge aborts its planned petition for Division I status. Northridge, currently a Division II school, would be allowed to accept only athletes who meet Division I eligibility standards into the soccer program should they apply for the change of status.

Which would give the 5-3, 150-pound striker about as many options as a man with a noose around his neck.

Tanoto arrived with his brother Hariganto from their native Indonesia. Playing on the national team had become a problem as well as a privilege. The two-a-day, six-day-a-week practices left little time for study. He decided to continue his education in the United States. Tanoto left hometown Jakarta with only a high school education.

"They force me to play all the time," Tanoto said in broken English. "In my culture, you give something for the nation. You cannot say 'no' so easily like here."

Tanoto wants to study business, but a Division II scholarship might separate him from his only state-side relative--his brother--and their Alhambra home. Because he is on a student visa, he is not allowed to work. The money he had saved diminishes daily.

"What am I going to do about that?" Tanoto said. "I will start to look for a scholarship."

Glendale Coach Joe Agoston plans to help Tanoto and believes most coaches contacted will show more than a passing interest.

"Every coach that has looked at our team has wanted to have him," Agoston said. "He's more mature than your average JC student."

Tanoto led Glendale with 27 goals in 24 games last season. The Vaqueros finished 12-0 in conference and 18-1-4 overall, losing to El Camino in the Southern California final, 1-0.

Tanoto has since taken on a leadership role--as much for his ability and attitude as for his age.

"He's very even tempered," goalkeeper Steve DeGooyer said. "He always puts his best effort forward on and off the field. He's not very outspoken. But he's got the experience. There's no reason for him to lose his temper."

Said teammate Sal Velasco: "It's funny, he's a kid with everybody on the team, but he's serious when he knows he has to be. It's neat to have him here."

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