Tuesday, June 06, 2017


No Excuses For Pitch Invasions

Three times in 96 hours we have seen fan misbehaviour rear its ugly head in Indonesian football. Friday saw Persija fans go off on one in Bekasi and pull the plug on the TV cameras recording the game live. On Sunday we had Persib fans protesting after seeing their team lose 2-0 to Bhayangkara at the same venue with a small number managing to scale the walls around the pitch and get among the players. Then last night hundreds of Gresik United fans invaded the pitch after seeing their team lose 2-0 at home to Persela in an East Java derby that keeps Gresik one point off bottom place.

Apparently some Persib fans who ran on the pitch were in tears after seeing their team go four games without a win. One lad on my Twitter feed said fans had to do something to protest at the alleged mismanagement at the club. What else could they do? Hiring a plane is not an option. Hashtags only speak to the converted. Polite marches like Arsenal fans have taken to doing don't work either. 

But charging on the pitch, and accepting it as a legitimate means of supporter protest only makes matters worse on a number of levels. Disappointment because Player X was replaced by Player Y may play out well among like minded supporters who move in the same social media circles but the nuances are wasted on TV viewers, armchair fans, sponsors and potential sponsors. Who wants to be associated with a product where fans feel they have a licence to jump the fences when their team fails to win a few games?

Persib by the way are now 13th in the table but just three points off second place. This weekend they host Persiba, a game they would be expected to win and quite comfortably.

If the 'entitled' Persib fans feel they are right to bear their grudges so publicly what about the long suffering supporters of Gresik United. They have just five points from 10 games and their only win of the season came when they beat the one team beneath them, Persiba, 2-1 last month. They have literally made no progress since last season when they finished the Indonesia Soccer Championship campaign in 17th position. Or second bottom. If any set of supporters can claim to be long suffering it is the Gresik United faithful yet still 15,000 turned out last night to provide their team with a support they perhaps don't fully deserve if we look at the results.

At least Persib fans have seen trophies in recent seasons. The Indonesia Super League. The Presidents Cup. An AFC Cup run before the season was cut short by FIFA suspension. Gresik United fans will need to be of a certain vintage to recall seeing a local side win Divisi Utama (2002) or playing in the AFC Asian Champions League in 2002/03. 

But while the Gresik United pitch invasion had far bigger numbers, and even saw fires lit on the pitch, it is the Persib intrusion that will attract the headlines. And today we have seen plenty of confusing stories coming out of Bandung with some stories saying Djadjang Nurdjaman has stepped down and even manager Umuh Muchtar has offered to resign...with a caveat. 'If I leave,' he says, 'who will save Persib?!' The football club aren't in a good place at the moment and as I have said before it is a tad unfair to blame the coach, and before him it was Carlton Cole. Most fans are savvy enough to know what is going on at the club behind the scenes. They just want it sorted pretty damn quickly so evveryone can get back to supporting the football club.

Back to the subject of pitch invasions though. We shouldn't fall into the trap of glorifying them, of saying there are circumstances when it is quite all right for supporters to encroach on to the playing field. In all likelihood the only ones to suffer will be the supporters and the club they love so much as they await their punishment from the PSSI.

Earlier in the season Arema arranged a meeting between club officials and supporters to discuss issues the fans were concerned about. Did it do any good? May be not immediately but surely some discussions need to be ongoing to ensure club and fans are on the same page. And, wishful thinking perhaps, there needs to be a realisation among fans and officials that building a football club takes time. Coaches need time. Players need time. There is no magic tree where points can be plucked at will; if there is such a tree then it suggests the league and by extension the football is worthless because it has all been arranged in advance.

We all get angry when our team loses. It's natural. Have you seen some of my tweets after Arsenal lose?! But we can't all go and invade the pitch in a bid to right a perceived wrong. We don't just trample on the playing surface, we trample all over football. 

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