Monday, May 16, 2016


Another Fan, Another Death, Another Funeral

It was supposed to be a joyous weekend but it ended in disaster for one family. It was the weekend FIFA finally lifted its suspension on the PSSI and Indonesian football and football responded with some great games.

One of those good games was at Bung Karno in Jakarta where Persija defeated Persela 2-1 in front of an estimated 40,000. Unfortunately not everyone who set out to see the game got inside the stadium. From reports I have read tempers flared and brawls broke out between disgruntled fans and security personnel leaving a 16 year old Persija supporter, Fahreza dead.

A story like this is not about sectarianism, it is not about 'my team does this, your team does that'. Everyone is a football fan and the Great Reaper has no favourite team. He culls when he wants.

This is not the place to go into what happened outside the gates of the Bung Karno on Saturday night that saw a teenager lose his life. Rather, we need to look at why this happens time and time again. This weekend Fahreza is being mourned by Persija fans. A few years ago it was a Persib fan, Rangga, attacked by Persija fans inside the stadium. In 2011 two fans died outside the stadium as fans tried to watch the SEA Games Final between Indonesia and Malaysia.

We hear about these incidents because they happen in Jakarta and that is where the media is. You can be sure other incidents happen around the country but they are not deemed newsworthy by the national media. It happens so often it barely raises a murmer anymore. We have all become immune to it. Yes Twitter allows us to express our rage for a few moments and we can hashtag the latest trending topic but really we are waiting for the latest three legged goat singing 'Oops Upside Your Head' on Britain's Got Talent.

This month in England we remembered the 56 Bradford City fans who perished in a fire at Valley Parade in 1985. We also commemorated the memory of the 96 Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough and we rejoiced in the fact that finally, after 27 years, the police have been found guilty of a cover up we all knew existed anyway.

Social media around the world shared our memories of cities they have never been to and disasters that happened before they were born by sharing images and hashtags. Bali United fans had a banner behind a goal showing the Shankly Gates with the words Truth and Justice, Excellent lads, fully appreciated by someone who was around in those days and has memories of dangerous conditions on the terraces as well from Liverpool fans with a more emotional involvement.

It has taken the families of the 96 almost three decades to get some semblance of justice but they fought all the way through the courts and they faced down the bullshit of the police. It has cost them time and money but they went through knowing they had right and justice on their side. They also knew at the end of the day there is a semblance on justice in England.

There have been inquiries and commissions and committees and documentaries sifting the evidence of every death at a football match in England. There will be nothing like that for Fahreza and Rangga. After the social media angst has dissipated we will all move on leaving the family to wonder what really happened, how were their children allowed to die at a football match, knowing they lack the resources and the know how to get that most Western, middle class of objectives; closure.

Justice should begin at home but for many justice is another toy for the rich to get their way. Away from the gated communities and the air conditioned malls in another Indonesia any justice comes from people working together as one to make themselves strong. Witness how the authorities pussyfoot around mass organisations that revolve around a religious or an ethnic identity and compare how they react to football fans.

Across England we have statues to the Unknown Soldier which allow us to remember the sacrifice our forefathers gave in foreign fields to keep our rich bastards rich. Perhaps we should have statues to the Unknown Supporter in Indonesia to remind ourselves of the callous approach to life held by too many.

We need to remember what happened and how it happened so everyone concerned can make sure it never happens again. Justice for the 96? Of course. But justice begins at home with a fair and just society. What about justice for Rangga, Faehreza and all the others who died because they went to a football match? Perhaps the simple act of remembering is the first step in ensuring it never happens again.

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