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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

 

Confirmed - Persib v Sriwijaya Final Set For Jakarta Date

There is a delicious irony at play here. Indonesia has been suspended from football for more than six months because of alleged interference by the government. FIFA decides to pay Jakarta a visit to discuss the situation and around the same time the President Cup, a competition organised by a team set up by the government to reform the game, gets to the final.

Out of 16 teams, Persib and Sriwijaya have made with through to the final and perhaps surprisingly the decision has been made to play the game in Jakarta. Yep, the same Jakarta that is home to Persija, a team whose fans widely loathe the Persib support, a feeling that is reciprocated with interest.

Last year as Persib fans returned home from Palembang having seen their team lift the Indonesia Super League for the first time in their history some were attacked hooligans as they drove through Jakarta in the early hours. Social media was awash with images of coaches that had been damaged as they negotiated the highway through Jakarta and people's experiences.

In the same year Persib's team coach was attacked by Persija hooligans as it left its Jakarta hotel and heading for the Bung Karno Stadium for their ISL game. The coach kept right on driving to the toll road and back to the comfort of the team's West Java heartland, the game called off.

Another time and Persija fans battled with police and local residents on a highway to Bandung after they were told they could not travel for their game against Persib in Soreang.

And then there was the time a Persib fan was beaten to death inside the Bung Karno Stadium when the teams met in an ISL game.

The two sets of supporters have previous going back years as this video shows. There was even the time when the game was forced to be played in Sleman, hundreds of miles from Jakarta and it still kicked off as rival fans went for it in the streets and on the terraces.

For years it has been the norm Persija fans don't travel to Bandung and Persib fans don't travel to Jakarta. If they do they hide their colours and they even go as far as changing their number plates on the highway before they reach enemy territory! One time I was stuck in Bandung, driving round the Siliwangi Stadium in a Jakarta registered car on match day. It was a bad move and it wasn't until our Sunda speaking driver opened the car window and showed the supporters two dumb, lost foreigners in the back seat that things cooled down.

For Persib fans, the game offers them a chance to repeat a moment that has gone down in their club's folklore, when tens of thousands of fans descended on Jakarta for a game against PSMS back in the 1990s, the single lane road through the mountains a sea of blue. That was before the rivalry kicked in.

Quite why the authorities have suddenly agreed to allow Persib, and their fans, to play in Jakarta is not clear. The city will be on full alert and it is no exaggeration to say while it won't be quite a lockdown so beloved of US news crews, not many security officials will be looking forward to a Sunday at home with their families.

Playing the game in Jakarta is a huge call and comes at a time when if anything football needs to be presenting a united face to FIFA. Thousands of fans battling in downtown Jakarta would not be the best image to show to the world.

A few years back I spoke with someone connected with the Persib supporters club.

There are 60,000 Vikings out there, fan club members, spread all across West Java. For them Persib
Bandung is an expression of identity. An outlet of Sundanese emotion and nowhere is this more evident 
than when Persib play Persija. The animosity felt by Persib fans to their Persija rivals is absolute. 
Hatred seems so inadequate to describe a rivalry that is certainly up there with Barcelona Real Madrid
and Liverpool Manchester United. The Sunda aspect adds an ethnic element that is missing in those 
aforementioned rivalries which are more based on politics and success. So, playing the dumb naïve 
foreigner, why the hatred?

‘Where to begin? We are Bandung. We come from Bandung, we live in Bandung, our football club is 
part of our heritage. Jakarta people have no heritage. They come from all over Indonesia, they have no
roots to their city. Instead they just have arrogance because they live in Jakarta.’ 

Every weekend and holiday Bandung’s streets are clogged with Jakarta registered cars as families 
from the capital head south in search of cheap shopping and food. For the people who deal with this 
influx, the car park attendants, shop assistants, the restaurant staff, they are an overbearing, 
overwhelming and unwanted guest. Getting round Bandung for Bandung folk becomes a slow moving
chore as idiotic Jakartans get lost in the confusing one way system and think nothing of parking where 
they want. The money they spend ensures a passive, if sullen, service but the feelings are real and are 
released on the terraces.

The games between the two sides this season have been marked by serious crowd disorder even though 
neither sets of fans traveled. At Persija blue scarves were menacingly burned in front of a plastic bottle 
strewn visitors dug out outside coaches from Bandung were attacked. The atmosphere was a cauldron 
and it would have been a brave referee indeed who would have given Persib a penalty that day. At the 
end both sets of players were relieved to get through the game unscathed though the Persib players 
needed to be escorted away from the stadium in Armoured Personnel Carriers! 


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