In Indonesia Adam Mitter is known as “the King”. The English defender is Persiraja Banda Aceh’s captain in the country’s top flight, the latest move in a nomadic life that looks on paper more like a backpacking holiday than a professional football career.
Mitter has played in Sweden, India, the Philippines, Canada and Singapore since leaving the UK after spells with Blackpool and Hibernian. The centre-back has captained five of the seven clubs he has represented, a sign of the respect he has earned, despite being relatively unknown in his homeland.
Indonesia, like the rest of the world, has been put on hold, allowing the 27-year-old to enjoy life next to a pool in Bali. Mitter is a celebrity in Aceh, where his club are based, and has an impressive social media following. “Just before the league stopped,” he says, “I went to grab a coffee and the guy froze, he started shaking, saying: ‘This is the best day of my life, I can’t believe I get to meet you,’ which really puts it into perspective what football means to people and how important it is to get results for these people, because when we walk down the streets everybody knows who you are and it really is like being a Premier League footballer.”
With this sort of reaction to meeting him, it is little surprise that Mitter has continued his worldwide odyssey, enjoying the various cultures and football styles along the way. “My mindset was that I wanted to see the world – we only live once – and I am very fortunate that football has enabled me to travel across the world,” he explains. “I have played a lot in Asia, Canada, Australia – these are the types of places people want to visit and luckily enough I have been paid to go to these places and perform what I love doing.”
The journey started with a move to Ange in Sweden, where Mitter led the team to the fifth-tier title. “Sweden was a fantastic year. We had a great team; there were a lot of English boys over there as there isn’t any restrictions on foreign players. We won the league, I was captain and it was fantastic. I am where I am now because I managed to go abroad at an early age, play some good football and get good results.”
After brief spells with Barrow and Chorley, Mitter was back in the air. First, he played in Australia, before heading to Manila to join Loyola Meralco. Following a season in the Philippines, the bags were packed and Mitter signed for Fateh Hyderabad. “India has a fantastic football crowd, they really get behind the team. They’re very passionate, just like they are with cricket. Football is rivalling cricket, so they get lots and lots of fans.
“The Philippines did not have as many fans but I fell in love with it as a country. That’s why I stayed there for three years with different teams. For anyone who’s not been to the Philippines, Manila is amazing and they also have some private islands, so you can go visit them when you have time off.”
Mitter usually spends a year with a club, as he continues to see the world, while being paid to play football. The former Blackpool youngster has become adept at adapting to new surroundings.
“I am quite open-minded and I try to make the best of every situation. Some places can be difficult to start off with but they become easier. I always tell myself to stay for four weeks and see how it is after that. At the end of the day you can always book a plane ticket home if it’s not what you expect but luckily I’ve not regretted any of the places I have been.”
Carlton Cole, Michael Essien and Danny Guthrie are among those who played in Indonesia where football is hugely popular and draws passionate crowds. “For the fan experience, Indonesia has been by far the best. Every stadium is full, 40,000-50,000 thousand every game, it’s really like playing in the Premier League. Since joining my social media has gone absolutely crazy. It’s an unbelievable experience to play football in Indonesia, especially in front of the fans, that’s the reason I came here.
“I have a lot of friends who are playing in England, from the Premier League to League Two; now I’ve come to Indonesia, they see the passion of the fans and they’re very interested. You live a fantastic lifestyle here and you play in atmospheres like the Championship and Premier League – not many teams get 30,000-40,000 every single week. I think a lot of lads in England are opening their eyes, realising it’s not just England, there are other countries, other experiences you can enjoy.”
Mitter’s career is proof of the variety of football experiences on offer, and brings him interest from unexpected countries. “Every year I get offers from clubs. Last year I got an offer from the Maldives and I didn’t even know they had a league. You think of the Maldives and think what an amazing country it is. When things like that come up it does make you realise that football really does cover the globe. To get a contract offer from the Maldives was an eye-opener.”
Mitter thinks it may be time to settle after years of moving around and Indonesia isn’t a bad place to stay. Whether he gets itchy feet in the sand is another question.