Thursday, August 16, 2007


A local rivalry

The nation may be gearing up for Independance Day tomorrow but before everyone can get their merah putih out and celebrate Indonesia's 62nd anniversary as a country there is the small matter of Persija taking on Persib this afternoon at Lebuk Belus and any feelings of Unity through Diversity will be put on hold as these rivals go for it. For added spice both clubs are in the Top 4 of Group 1 of the Liga Indonesia and both fancy their chances of winning the Liga come December.

Earlier this season Persib came out on top beating the team from Jakarta 3-0 at their own Siliwangi Stadium but Persija will be feeling confidant after a couple of straight wins.

As many eyes will be focusing on the crowd as the game. Last season the Jakmania wouldn't let Persib fans near the stadium and the few that did were unceremoniously removed in what can only be described as bullying. As I've mentioned before here no Persija fans travelled with colours to the game earlier in the season. It remains to be seen whether any Vikings from Bandung make the journey today. To give some idea of the hatred between these two rivals witness the scene in Purwakarta the other week when the Jakmania coaches arrived for the game with Pelita Jaya. Fans who had been quiet on the journey down were suddenly pumped and calling out for any Vikings to show their faces.

Bandung's hatred of Jakarta has many sources. Bandung is a big city in it's own right and the people there take offence at the perceived arrogance of folks from the capital city. Things are made worse because everyweekend and holiday Jakarta folks take their gas guzzling cars away from their own clogged streets and clog the streets of Bandung. The Jakarta folk fill the roads, malls and restaurants and are seen as pushy and condescending by their hosts who may dislike their presence but they certainly love the money they leave behind.

There's also regionalism. Persib Bandung are seen to represent the hopes and aspirations of the old Sunda kingdom that once held sway in the region. Their support stretches across huge swathes of what today is rather boringly known as West Java but was once Sunda with it's own language. Like Leeds and Yorkshire, Barcelona and Catalan, Persib is a living embodiment of a state that may never exist again but plays a role in people's vision of themselves. Jakarta is a cosmopolitan mongrel city full of people from all across the country and the support of Persija reflects that. Second and third generation migrants fill the terraces while their parents pine for Medan, Surabaya or Makassar, cities they left long ago and have little hope of returning to. Persija and their support see themselves as modern and open, they see Persib as provincial and old fashioned.

Modern Indonesia discourages any show of regionalism and one way of doing that has been to consign names like Sunda to the history books but governments cannot legislate for people's desire to belong. Down at street level there still exists a Sunda and the repressed energy is released at Persib games. Persij just heightens the feeling of us, Sunda, and them, Indonesia. and for a few hours regional rivalry gives some people something they can identify with.

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