Sunday, October 29, 2017


Bobotoh Keep The Faith Despite Poor Run

Persib finally ended their eight match winless run as they defeated Mitra Kukar 3-1 yesterday at the Si Jalak Harapat Stadium in Soreang. They made their supporters sweat for the victory mind. 

Febri Haryadi had given them the lead just shy of the hour mark with his fourth goal of the season but when Marclei Santos levelled 12 minutes later you could forgive the home supporters for rolling their eyes and thinking here we go again. Persib have after all drawn 14 games this season.

However injury time saw a tidal wave of relief sweep around the sparsely occupied terraces as Achmad Jufriyanto and Raphael Maitimo, from the penalty spot, confirmed that rarest of events; three points and a win. Their last victory had come back in early September when they had beaten Sriwijaya 4-1 in Palembang. Since then a monotonous landscape of draws and defeats has tested the patience of the Persib faithful.

Unlike the Arema supporters, who have pretty much turned their backs on the team during their well documented struggles, the Bobotoh have stuck by their team as these numbers show.

09/09 v Semen Padang 2-2 21,617
21/09 v Bali United 0-0 23,515
24/09 v Bhayangkara 1-1 21,908
09/10 v Barito Putera 0-0 7,197
19/10 v Madura United 0-0 7,223
27/10 v Mitra Kukar 3-1 7,264

Yes, an unhealthy drop in attendances is nothing to crow about but the Persib fan base have shown a greater willingness to stick with their team through the lean times than for example Arema, a similarly sized club with a fan base to match.

18/08 v Persiba 3-0 1,664
30/08 v PSM 3-3 6,116
16/09 v Persela 2-0 6,008
24/09 v Persija 1-1 26,917
20/10 v PS TNI 1-1 4,363
25/10 v Gresik United 2-0 2,269

Arema's crowd figures make for interesting, if depressing, reading. Compare for example the attendance when they hosted Persiba. Not the most attractive game for the East Java side perhaps but when they met earlier in the season, when the Honey Bears were playing in Malang, the crowd was 20,000! Local derbies against Persela and Gresik United have failed to stir the passions among the Aremania and arguably the only good number from their game against Persija comes in part because of a large away support and the close relationship between the two sets of supporters.

Both Arema and Persib boast strong home records but find themselves mid table, mired in inconsistency and fan discontent but it is the Bobotoh who are showing greater signs of reliance when it comes to watching games. 

There is a suspicion Arema fans are turning their back because of the current management which they, now don't recognise as being the real Arema. There was another Arema playing in Liga 3 which some believe have a greater claim to the legacy of the founding fathers of this football club.

Persib supporters too have issues with management and recently took to the streets to express their disgust at what they felt was interference on the playing side. 

Football fans the world over are drawn when it comes to protesting at how they perceive their club is being run. No fan wants to miss a game, ask any Arsenal supporter if they would consider boycotting games to express their disgust at management and the answer would be a resounding No. It's different in Indonesia. Fans will walk away if they feel there isn't enough being done to make their club successful and that is what we are seeing to a certain extent with Arema and to a lesser degree with Persib.

The Indonesian football landscape is changing and it is frustrating for fans of the old order, clubs like Persib and Arema, to see a newer breed of club, more professional, overtake their heroes. You get the impression Persib only need to do some behind the scenes tinkering to get the fans back on side, at the expense of some egos. In Malang however the fissure runs deeper and without a wholesale rethink within the football club it is unlikely the Aremania will be returning in large numbers any time soon.

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