Thursday, November 10, 2016


Persija To Play Remaining Home Games Behind Closed Doors

Not for the first time this season Persija fans have been under the spotlight and for all the wrong reasons. Already banned from using the Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta following crowd disturbances that halted a home game versus Sriwijaya the club have spent the last few months playing home games in places like Solo, Madura, Bali and Malang.

Their most recent home game came against their bitterest rivals, Persib, and although it was played in supposedly neutral Solo there were still 20,000 odd fans who made the journey and managed to recreate the febrile atmosphere we have come to associate when these two sides meet.

Perhaps the authorities felt they had done enough to minimise the risk of trouble. Persija fans were allowed to watch the game but weren't allowed to wear club colours for example. I have no idea what the logic is behind such a decision. Is no one aware of the casual movement in England that saw fans cause trouble at games without the need for replica shirts or scarves. Persib fans were advised not to go to the game at all.

 Sad but true, when Persija fans gather together in large numbers there does seem to be a risk of trouble. Disorder marred a couple of home games earlier in the season including PS TNI when one fan died outside the stadium. More than 20,000 made the short journey to Cibinong to catch the return fixture and they were made to feel less than welcome by the local residents, many of whom have Persib blue blood running through their veins.

Against this backdrop it does seem strange Persija have been pushing for their home games to be played in satellite cities like Bekasi, politically West Java and Persib land. Perhaps the club remain eternally optimistic their fans will behave.

True to form the most recent game in Solo saw disorder, flares and enough fire crackers for a 4th July party. More than 100 coaches ferried fans to and from the Central Java city and there were some violent incidents along the way. One saw a Persija die in disorder. Another dead fan. The sixth in 2016 alone? Is anyone still counting? When is enough enough?

Persija have now been told they must play their remaining home games behind closed doors. Like, woo. That will make a difference. 2017 and hopefully the Indonesia Super League will return. Persija's first issue will be finding a stadium for the home games and no doubt the club will be hopeful they can use a venue fairly close to the capital so they can get as many fans attending as possible. Memories are short in football.

But banning fans is mere sticking plaster to a greater problem. 'Dibunuh aja' is a familiar terrace chant in Indonesia and it seems to some at least they are words that are to be taken literally (they translate as ''just kill him'). The sports minister is calling for a fan conference to ease tensions among some groups but will that achieve anything? After all it wasn't that long ago a peace was brokered between Persib and Persija fans but that hasn't held and is unlikely to. 

The most recent fatality occurred hundreds of miles from the stadium where the game was played. Similarly there was a death earlier in the year when fans returning home from a game ventured into the wrong manor, it kicked off and one fan died. Without security officials accompanying each and every group of fans and having them liase with provincial police stations as they head to and from the stadium there seems to be little that can be done to halt these random acts of violence beyond banning fans from attending which of course penalises the club and the majority of well behaved fans. 

This weekend sees PSStravel to Karawang to play Persita in an ISC B Big 16 play off. Reknowned for their own massive support they have been given 3,500 tickets. Let's hope the game, and the journey to and from the stadium ,passes peacefully.

Read also

Persib and Persija - a timeline of violence
A list of supporter fatalities at Indonesian football matches
Jakarta Casual TV - On the Manahan Terraces

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