Sunday, January 29, 2006


Away To Tangerang

A frequent complaint on the few message boards I use is how football just ain't the game we grew up with. Well, that's the gripe on one of them. The other football casual site mostly talks about the price of local free papers and do people really wear naff adidas trainer to the game.

It's kind of difficult to pinpoint the demise of English football to a precise date though the beginning of the Premier League is a convenient scapegoat. This coincided with horrors like all seater stadiums and of course Euro 96 and slaphead Hornby and football pull outs in the broadsheets. The game was changing and it was happy to leave behind the heart n soul as it chased the corporate prawn sandwich eater and his bulging credit cards and expense account. Forking out 30 to 40 quid for a game of football these days just ain't on my radar any more, imagine living in London and having kids who along with the latest computer games and club shirt also demand their presence at the stadium. You don't need a bean counter to tell you it's an expensive hobby.

So, for me, Indonesian football is a breath of fresh air. Young supporters fill the terraces adorned in their club colours and dance and sing their way through dire kick arounds on pitches more like pizza. The game is affordable to the masses whose blind faith to their team is repaid by shit on the pitch but hey? English football in the 70's was the same. Anyone my age, early 40's, will recall the Baseball Ground and Anfield, more like playing football in the Everglades than todays billiard smooth surfaces. Vendors push their through the crowds selling drinks and snacks, a wider choice than the old shed at the back of the North Bank ever had. Standing out on rainswept terraces with your mates mocking the away fans and laughing at the pish on the pitch was a rite of passage as much as your first snog or the first time you peeked at some porn.

And like those distant days in England, people's reactions here are the same when you tell someone you went to the football. Hooligans! And like England there seems in a perverse way to be some kind of reverence when their actions are spoken about. It's as if these lads running round kicking people are living out the fantasies of those mortgage bound types who have just too much to lose. Tell someone from the Indonesian middle classes you were at the football and they look at you and say wow! Fighting...

Persija on Saturday were at near neighbours Persita Tangerang and if any game was guaranteed to be action packed it was this little beauty. The Jakmania were sure to travel in numbers and in the shadow of the large mosque it was odds on the Viola of Tangerang wouldn't lay out the red carpet at Stadion Benteng. And of course it kicked off. TV pictures showed with delight images of lads in club colours with their school bags over their shoulders waving big sticks at each other, one lad had his nose rearranged while Tangerang fans gestured at the visiting fans in the curved away terrace. Jakmania responed in kind, lobbed rocks and anything they could find as well as mixing it for a while. Just like the old days!

Persija won the game 1-0. The pitch was dreadful. Seriously it was fit for 4wd only and the respective penalty areas were bald but again credit to the players. They kept the ball low and tried to pass. That there was no bounce, control was difficult were just extra problems, this was probably the most exciting game I'd seen so far. It was ened to end and plenty of chances were being created both ends.

The second half was delayed as the home fans in garish Fiorentina style purple spilled over the terraces and on to the track round the pitch. This was more a response I think to overcrowding and not an attempt to get at the Jakarta hordes. It took a long time to get started again and while there was plenty of gesturing the fans seemed uninterested in having a pop.

As Jakarta wound the clock down they had a throw in in front of some of the home support. Obviously it was in the interest of the home support to have play get a move on, after all they were losing but instead the simians lobbed rocks at any Jakarta player attempting to get on with the game. The ref decided sod this for a game of tic tac toe and blew the whistle, denying Tangerang any more attempts to equalise.

In the other game of the day North Jakarta lost 1-0 to Tangerang City in a game played out in Cilegong. Tuesday sees Persija making the same journey for the Jakarta derby but why in Cilegon eh?

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