Saturday, June 25, 2016


Bung Karno Erupts In Night Of Violence

With firecrackers and smoke bombs going off all over the place Bung Karno Stadium resembled more a war zone than a sports arena last night as Persija fans fought pitched battles with security forces leading to the game being halted with just minutes remaining. Videos posted on You Tube showed youths throwing plastic water bottles and rocks at retreating security personnel while others tore down advertising hoardings to be used as weapons for future battle.

Players and match officials rushed to the relative safety of the dressing rooms as the violence intensified authorities struggled to stop the disorder that seemed to erupt from different sides of the ground. Before TV stopped broadcasting they showed a distraught looking Bambang Pamungkas, a Persija legend, looking on in bemusement. What the fuck was going on and why?

The disturbances continued outside the stadium with reports of tear gas being fired, cars being damaged and set on fire. Persija fans were quick to blame the police, shadows of the Russian violence in Marseilles, saying they were provoked by the men in uniform but without a proper inquiry we will never know how things could spiral out of control so quickly.

photo credit
Twice in the second half the game was stopped after Persija fans let off flares, the smoke effecting some players who were forced to take on oxygen pitchside. Why were the flares even let inside the stadium given the zero tolerance towards such items being adopted by the Indonesia Soccer Championship? It would be naive to expect tight security at the turnstiles wouldn't it? Go to nearby Plasa Senayan mall and the middle class families get searched but it doesn't happen at the football where the numbers are obviously much larger.

The ISC policy towards flares has been clear from Match Day 1 with fines being announced weekly and following multiple incidents recently Madura United have been forced to move their home games to Sidoarjo as punishment. Persija too have been fined. Knowing the financial penalty their club would receive the fans still brought the flares and twice the game was halted. 

This was Persija's fourth home game of the season. There had been disturbances outside the stadium at the game against Persela where one supporter lost his life. There were reports of fighting with security personnel against PS TNI. And now this. We are not talking about the more old school English style hooliganism where two sets of lads go at it. This is locals against security and is more than just football. That it happens so often in Jakarta is never adequately explained beyond 'we was provoked guv' as all sides play the blame game and the club keep quiet.

The irony is Persija were only to play their first two home games in Jakarta. With Bung Karno Stadium to be closed for renovations ahead of the Asian Games Persija were to be forced to play their home games elsewhere. The authorities agreed to a couple of more games in Jakarta but after last night the need to find an alternate venue has grown more acute and the reported willingness of Pakansari Stadium to be used must be reconsidered given its location in West Java, Persib's heartland.

And just a few days ago club president Ferry Paulus was expressing surprise when Persib announced they would not allow Persija fans to attend their game in Bandung next month. I'm not Indonesian and to me it seemed an eminently good suggestion but Ferry was surprised. After the incidents last night it still seems a good idea and for those with short memories who can forget the violence that blocked the toll road between Jakarta and Bandung as Persija fans fought with security officials a couple of years ago

The game itself was actually not bad considering the febrile atmosphere with Sriwijaya's excellent young keeper Teja Paku Alam smartly saving a penalty from Bambang and Hilton Moreira scoring with an excellent free kick to give the visitors the lead before the carnage erupted. 

The ISC have a busy few days ahead deciding what punishment to give to Persija as well as deciding what to do with the final 10 or so minutes of the game. It will also be interesting to see how the Sports Minister reacts. Following the sweeping incidents that occurred when Persebaya fans went out seeking Malang registered cars ahead of Madura United v Arema and the serious disorder that broke out when PS TNI fans attacked Gresik United supporters the minister said any more violence and he would stop the league. 

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