Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Indonesian football fans

I'm just watching an Asian Champions League tie between Gamba Osaka and Cheongnam Dragons in South Korea and apart from being a good game I'm struck by the fans. It's good to see a few Japanese have made the relatively short joruney to follow their team but I fear it could be another 12 months before any fans will be making their way to Indonesia to cheer on their heroes.

Which is a shame because the Indonesian fans are as good an ambassador for the game here as many of the players. Sometimes more so. Sometimes less so.

It is unfortunate that the only time fans make the headlines here is when they riot like the now infamous play off between Arema and Persiwa.

The Indonesian football fan is a contradictory fan. Kurnia Sandy, former Persik and Arema keeper, told me that when he played for Arema the fans used to sing and chant songs against hooliganism. However once they played Persebaya all pretence at being angels went out the window as they all did their damnedest to get at their bitterest foes.

But on their day they can be exhilirating. So exhilirating in fact someone likened their terrace movement to an orchestra and made a movie about it. Witness 80,000 singing Indonesia Raya during last years Asian Cup.

The leader of the Persija fan club, Danang Ismartani, knows a thing or two about football fans here but he told me that the Asian Cup games at Bung Karno Stadium, and the atmosphere created, was the first time he had ever felt proud to be Indonesia.

The atmosphere at Liga games is also enough to have 70's terrace veterans remembering their own days standing on windswept steps getting pissed on and shat on while accepting the vitriol of the locals.

While sad old gits like me get all melancholic about the noise rolling down from the terraces for players it can be a completely different experience. Indonesia's captain and most recognisable player Bambang Pamungkas describes the Persib v Persija as a real Indonesian experience. From 90 minutes of venom and vitriol being thrown at you from 20,000 who hate you to the journey home in the back of an Armoured Personal Carrier.

Kurnia didn't enjoy those moments so much. I guess because as a keeper he was always just feet away from the baying hordes. He admitted to feeling intimadated at some stadiums and recalls the time a mate of his, new Persik signing Achmad Kurniawan, was travelling on a team coach one time when it came under a sustained rock attack from local fans. Kurniawan was injured when a sliver of glass struck his face.

Good and the bad, one thing is for sure. The Liga Super, which begins in July, is going to see some busy days on the terraces with venomous rivalries being played out like the aforementioned Perdib v Persija and Persebaya v Arema as well as new animities like Persija v Persipura.

With plenty of potential hotspots it will be down to the fans to police themselves and sometimes make the decision not to attend games when they deem the risk is too high. But given a choice between the noise and passion of the fans here and the oh so twee and polite fans in Singapore I know which I prefer!

PS This is not to suggest I don't like the Singapore match experience...I do!


Hey A,

Watching the jak on Youtube brought back the semi finals in gelora bung karno to me.

It's was a really fantastic day, thanks again!

Interestingly my Chinese-Indonesian pal had zero problems going back thru the Jakmania (she reckons they thought she was a tourist).

I reckon with decent match day policing problems could be overcome (don't worry I won't hold my breath on that).

Thanks again!! All the best to you good wife also :)
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