Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Madura United & Football In Madura

Persepam Madura United Background The island of Madura has long intrigued me but I don’t really know why. Cigar shaped and lying off the coast of East Java, it’s reputation as a coarse, arid, unhospitable land proceeds it but as a foreigner interested only in the football I know nothing and care less for such stereotypes.

Google Madura and the chances are you will end up in India which just goes to show you can’t always trust technology! After crossing Indonesia’s longest bridge from Surabaya, the island reveals little of itself beyond the fact that families should only have two children, a strange family planning message to welcome visitors. But it doesn’t take long to realise the island has little in common with Java, just across the Madura Strait.

Java, one of the most densely populated islands in the world, has fertile soil from the volcanoes that run along its spine. Just about anything can grow there. Madura is not so blessed. Nature is a harsh mistress on the island, the soil is less abundant and for centuries the Madurese have been forced to travel in search of work and opportunity.

Today, more Madurese are spread across the archipelago than actually live in their homeland. Those that remain behind have been left to work the land and perhaps wait for a tourist boom the new bridge, Suramuda, is supposed to bring. The odd mall has gone up in Bangkalan for example and there is evidence of a new housing estate, perhaps planned by an ambitious developer eyeing Surabayans fed up with the incessant traffic jams and looking for a quieter commute.

Madura’s attractions for now are more traditional. Perhaps some batik, or the buffalo racing during the season and of course the landscape. Passing a small ‘Teh Botol’ warehouse, I see the floodlights on the horizon to the right and I feel a familiar thrill.

In England, it was usually pretty easy to find a football ground. Just look for the floodlights on the skyline. In Indonesia, the floodlights have been devoured by the skyline! But for now, in the flat landscape of North West Madura, the pylons are clearly visible and act as a beacon for my journey. For the floodlights are part of Gelora Bangkalan, home of Persepam Madura United.

On the Pitch

Persepam’s rise through the Indonesian football pyramid has been nothing short of astounding. Back in 2007, they were playing in Division Three, the lowest rung on the national ladder. They were drawn in Group D, based in Malang, alongside Metro FC (Malang), Mojokerto, Persesa Sampang (also from Madura) and Persekap Pasururan.

Persepam started the campaign in less than spectacular style, holding the hosts Metro 1-1 followed by another 1-1 draw with Mojokerto. They managed to defeat Persekap 2-1 while the result from the Madura derby has not been kept for the record books! Persepam did finish second though in the group behind Metro and qualified for the next stage.

Unfortunately, Persepam lost both games in the next round, going down 2-0 against both hosts Persebo Bondowoso and Persem Mojokerto. Persem went on to win Division Three that season while, somehow, Persepam secured themselves a spot in Division Two for the following campaign. Results are a bit sketchy for the 2008 season but it seems clear Persepam again didn’t set anyone’s heart aflutter.

Drawn alongside Persem, again, Persipa Pati and Persikaba Blora, the Madura team finished third, winning just one game, against Persikaba 1-0, collecting four points and finishing six points behind group winners Persem. But somehow it was Persepam who made it through to the next stage along with Persikaba...just don’t ask why!

Funnily enough, Persepam were once more drawn alongside Persikaba with Blora hosting PSCS Cilacap and Persikas Semarang for a few days in August. This time, Perspam acquitted themselves much better, drawing 2-2 with PSCS, defeating hosts Persikaba 3-1 and losing 2-0 against Persikas but could only finished third and failed this time to reach the next round. The lower divisions are a very flexible football environment.

Clubs come and go like trains at a railway station and if one club doesn’t turn up for a season, the only people to really miss it are the fans. So, with clubs often withdrawing at the last minute, there remains the possibility others may be drawn in to replace them irrespective of their position the season before. Which may explain why Persepam found themselves beginning the 2009/2010 campaign in Division One and the start of a rivalry with Barito Putra!

Barito Putra hosted Group 8 at their 17 May Stadium in Banjarmasin and they were joined by Persepam, Persebi Bima and Perst Tabanan. The home team walked it, winning all six of their games but Persepam finished second, earning a ticket for the next round by merit this time!

The Madura team, nicknamed Laskar Ronggo Sukowati, found themselves drawn back to Banjarmasin having been drawn with Barito Putra and Persiko Kota Baru but things didn’t go there way this time. They lost their first game against Persiko 2-1 and were thrashed by the hosts 5-1 to finish bottom of the group.

2010 saw Persepam stay in the First Division. They were drawn in a group alongside Madiun Putra, the hosts, Perspin Pontianak, Persipur Purwodadi and Persekaba and managed to come through unscathed, finishing second behind Madiun and remaining unbeaten though goals were proving hard to come by; they netted just three in their four games.

For the second round they were drawn in Group D which was hosted by Persewangi Banyuwangi on the eastern tip of Java, just a short ferry ride from Bali. Joining them in the group were Persid, making the short trip from Jember, and Persewon Wondama. Goals again proved hard to come by for Persepam but they finished second with five points, winning one game and drawing the other two. At least they could point to a strong defence; they had conceded one goal in their seven league games and they were through to the next round!

The third round saw the action move to Jakarta with Lebak Bulus hosting Persepam, Madiun Putra, Persip Pekalongan and PSGL Gayo Luwes (Aceh). With the support of migrant Madurese workers Persepam won the group with five points, winning one game and drawing two, including an exciting 2-2 draw with Persip. 10 games into the campaign, they had yet to lose.

Drawn against PSBS Biak in the semi final at Singaperbangsa Stadium, Karwang, Perspam took the lead on 14 minutes through Rano. It didn’t take PSBS to equalise however, just four minutes in fact, and on 23 minutes they took the lead through Alex. Nur Rochman showed the team had some mental strength, levelling the scores in the second half but it was PSBS who took the honours, Ronald scoring in the last minute of the game to ensure their spot in the final against Persbul Buol. The disappointment at losing in the semi final may not have lasted too long for Persepam found themselves promoted anyway to Divisi Utama for the 2011/2012 season anyway!

With the step up to the relative big time of the second tier, Persepam did some tweaking. They moved their home ground to the new Bangkalan Stadium and changed their name to Persepam Madura United or Persepam MU in a bid to better represent the island.

Their first season saw the club and the players build up the airmiles as they were drawn in Group 2 alongside teams from South Kalimantan, Sumbawa, East Java, Papua, Gorontalo and Sulawesi. In fact, the nearest thing they had to a local derby was some 95 kilometers across the Madura Strait to Mojokerto. For all the travel involved, the team acquitted themselves well in their debut season in Divisi Utama though they found goals hard to come by, a familiar tale. They finished runners up, behind Barito Putra, another familiar tale, winning 11 of their 20 games and losing just four.

It was enough to reach the play offs, made up of the top four teams in Groups 1 and 2 and Persepam MU were drawn in Group A, based at Sidoarjo’s Delta Stadium, along with Persita Tangerang, PSBK Blitar and Persiku Kudus. Things didn’t start well, going down to a 2-0 defeat against Persita but two days later, they recovered to overcome PSBK 2-1 and defeating Persiku 1-0 in their final game with Husen’s goal on 55 minutes.

With Persita drawing their other two games, Persepam MU finished on top of the group and progressed to the semi finals, held at the Manahan Stadium in nearby Solo. The joy of reaching the semi finals must have been short-lived; they were drawn against Barito Putra, their hex from South Kalimantan who had defeated them in the Division One play offs a couple of years earlier. Indonesians tend not to like history and you can not blame Persepam MU fans...especially when it comes to Barito Putra. And sure enough, they lost 2-0.

There was some consolation in defeating PSIM Yogyakarta 1-0 in the third place play off at the same final and they were promoted anyway to the Super League for the first time in their history. It was proving to be a remarkable journey and their arrival in the top flight was the crowning glory. The days of shuffling round East and Central Java cooped up on rickety old buses were behind them. Persepam MU were gradually adopting the trappings of a top flight club. They had a stadium that left many of the supposed bigger teams blushing, they had a passionate support and they even picked up a comfy club coach for those long, boring journeys.

The fixture list for the ISL in 2013 was less than kind to them however. Away to Persela Lamongan, Persipura Jayapura and Persiwa Wamena in their opening three games games was as tough as it could get and they were probably glad to return to their safe Madurese home with two 4-0 defeats and a 2-0 loss under their belts and two home games to look forward to.

The fans turned out in force and Persepam MU recorded their first victories and goals as they overcame Persidafon Dafonsoro, 2-1, and Persiram Raja Ampat by the same score. With confidence and momentum flowing through their veins, probably the last thing they wanted was a trip to South Kalimantan but football is a harsh, impersonal mistress and of course, Persepam MU flew their, lost 2-1 to Barito Putra but responded positively by moving on to Persiba Balikpapan and earning a very respectable 3-3 draw.

 A road trip in the middle of March would show that the team had what it takes to hold their own with the big boys. They won 1-0 away to PSPS Pekanbaru, historically strong at home but at that time on the verge of imploding, before flying on to Solo and beating Persija Jakarta 3-0 at the neutral Manahan Stadium. Consistency was the issue as they struggled to put together a run of results. A case in point came in July when they won 4-0 away to Sriwijaya Palembang only to follow that up with defeats away to Persiram and Persidafonso. They finished the campaign in a credible 10th place, ahead of supposed bigger names like Persija.

Persepam MU were relegated at the end of the 2014 and with 2015 aborted because of the FIFA suspension of PSS
I the club underwent a serious overhaul. They were sold with the owners using the cash to buy Pelita Bandung Raya's license. For the 2016 Indonesia Soccer Championship Madura United, still wearing the red and white hoops that form a link back to Perseba Super, took their place in the top division while Persepam Madura Utama were joined by Perssu Madura Utama in what became known as ISC B.

I started following Indonesian football in 2006 when Madura didn't exist in the eyes of many fans. Last weekend 12,500 fans filled the Bangkalan Stadium with fans spilling off the terraces onto the track around the pitch to watch the local heroes play big boys Arema. Intimidating venues are par for the course but you get the feeling many away fans genuinely won't want to go to Madura. The people are friendly but fiercely proud of their island and once they get inside the stadium all bets are off. It will be a brave ref indeed who gives the away side a last minute penalty with points at stake!

Madura United have the look and feel of one of a new breed of football club. More savvy the one more traditional clubs which get clogged with political appointees. Madura United have proved to be ambitious in their recruitment policy, bringing in experienced coach Mario Gomes de Oliveira and appointing Osvaldo Lessa as physical coach earlier this week.

They have shown similar ambition on the field with the signing of highly sought after Fabiano Beltrame, a Brazilian who has spent many years in Indonesia with the likes of Persela, Persija and Arema while Slamet Nurcahyo and Bayu Gatra are talented local players.

For now Madura United share top spot of the ISC with four other teams. This weekend they face a tricky away game at Sriwijaya but they won in Bandung when they played PS TNI so why would they fear Palembang? Madura United may not win the ISC this year but they are an ambitious football club and who is to say in the years to come they won't become a major player in the local game?

Labels: , , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?