Saturday, August 04, 2012


Groundhopping In Indonesia

English football is full of eccentricities. Every match day up and down the country there are people out there busy adding to their collection of match day programmes, badges or tickets. Others collect scarves, pennants or autographs. You name it and there is probably someone out there somewhere with a sizeable collection of them.

I’m sure if some enterprising club introduced their own vomit bags, much like airlines do, complete with club crest on them some bright spark would soon be out there buying them up, getting a few autographed to add to their value then starting a website about his growing collection.

All those nutters make the 92 Club seem somewhat staid and normal. The 92 refers to the number of football clubs there are in the top four divisions of English football; for new converts to English football there are a further three divisions outside the Premier League and that is how they manage to promote and relegate clubs.

The aim of the 92 Club is to provide a place for members to gather and talk about their achievements. And to be a member you must have attended a competitive football match at each of the 92 stadiums in the leagues.

Not just any old game. For example, my long trip to the South West of England to see Plymouth Argyle play Everton would not count because it was a friendly and the sniffy members don’t recognize such meaningless games.

Once members have ‘done’ the 92 then they often go on and cover Scotland, Wales and Irelands or they start visiting as many ‘non league’ grounds as possible where they meet other ‘groundhoppers’ and opine about how this is real football and the modern game has lost its soul thanks to the millions of pounds flooding in.

Could Indonesia host a similar club? Unlikely given that it would mean fans would have to travel from Banda Aceh at the northern most tip of Sumatra to the highlands of Wamena in Papua with all points in between. Logistically a nightmare, prohibitively expensive and that is before we try and track down a reliable fixture list!

In England clubs have their own home stadium, most own them, and you can be sure when Rochdale have a home game it will be at Spotland.

I have seen PSMS Medan play two home games but never in Medan! One was in Bandung, the other Jakarta yet they were home games. Their own stadium was closed for renovations at the time and they were forced to take to the highways and byways.

What about Pelita Jaya? I have seen them play home games in three different cities; Purwakarta, Soreang and Karawang. Before that they played in Solo, Jakarta and Cilegon. How would any groundhopping club in Indonesia address that?

Last week I saw PSIM Yogyakarta play Persebaya at the Mandala Krida Stadium in Yogyakarta. To all intents and purposes it was a PSIM home game. But the game was a play off and in the eyes of the authorities the stadium was a neutral venue; for them Persebaya were the ‘home’ team!

We’ll round off with Persiram Raja Ampat. The notion of Raja Ampat glazes the eyes as we consider gorgeous, white sandy beaches and fabulous diving. I have been to three Persiram home games, one was cancelled at the last minute as the police on duty were called to a riot elsewhere. The games took place not way off to the east of Indonesia but in polluted South Jakarta.

The idea of a groundhopping club is an intriguing one but we are a long way from that. Instead what we have is the occasional European who makes his way over here and tries to find as many games as possible to visit with the aid of Facebook.

Yet the ones who have tried this have always returned home with some unbelievable stories about football in Indonesia and how friendly the people were once they had overcome their amazement at the foreigner who had tracked down an amateur game in Sragen!

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