Wednesday, September 26, 2018


Big Gesture Won't Solve Multi-Layered Problem

Following on from the latest tragedy to hit Indonesian football where a Persija fan was beaten to death in Bandung following their 2-3 reverse against Persib the PSSI chief Edy Rahmayadi has announced Liga 1 will be stopped indefinitely out of respect for the deceased.

The announcement follows call from the sports minister Imam Nahrawi for the league to be halted for two weeks and the players' union (APPI) announcing they would strike for the next round of fixtures which would have commenced this Friday and, incidentally, features another high octane game with Arema hosting Persebaya.

Bandung police have responded quickly to the murder of a Persija fan by making a number of arrests including a 41 year old man and some teenagers. 

President Joko Widodo has spoken out on the murder saying '16 (dead supporters in 2018) is too high. Do not let fanaticism go off the rails and turn into criminal activities. This must be stopped since sport honours sportive behaviour'. He added that all stakeholders needed to sit down and discuss the problem.

Of course 16 deaths is too much. Isn't one death? So why have the PSSI only acted now, after the 16th? Why have they done nothing before? Obviously a Persib v Persija game is high profile and carries a reputation for fan behaviour getting out of hand but don't the supporters of other, lower profile clubs, deserve a similar reaction? 

Basically football fans are trusted to police themselves all too often. When they travel to away games in numbers it is often left to the supporters themselves to make the arrangements and that includes liaising with the police forces of areas they pass through. This can lead to misunderstandings and confrontation as we have seen in the past where a lack of coordination and a creaking infrastructure  some leading to death. 

It wasn't that many years ago when 25 or more buses carrying Persija fans to Bandung were halted on the tollway and eventually turned back after several hours of disturbances which brought this important road to a standstill. Or the thousands of Persebaya fans heading to Bandung on a single train, including sitting on the roofs of the carriages being attacked along the route at various stations. Or the numerous incidents that have occurred, and still occur in and around Yogyakarta and Solo when fans heading to or returning from games go through a rivals' patch.

And let us not forget that most venomous of derbies, a game so fearful it hasn't been played in years. As Persita fans used to head towards Benteng Stadium they would be greeted by hails of rocks from narrow gangs as Persikota supporters took offence at their presence.

To go to games some supporters use any means necessary including physically stopping trucks in the middle of the road and convincing the driver to carry some of their mates on the back. For free of course. 

When away fans arrive at a ground again they are left to do their own thing, often for hours ahead of kick off. Most just sit around, smoking, talking, sleeping. They are the lucky ones. They will have travelled to a game perhaps far from their home city and there will have been elements of organisation albeit of a rudimentary nature. Local supporters clubs will have made their own arrangements, booked their own coach, organised their own routes. Where there is a good relationship between home and away fans there would have been a welcoming committee who would have ensured some refreshments were on hand for the weary travellers.

Clubs and the authorities play little role in these away days and they can often be a good trip for all concerned.

Not all trips are like that though. The recent DIY Derby between PSIM and PSS saw hundreds of away fans form up in a convoy and make their own way to Sultan Agung Stadium in Bantul. The narrow lanes in and around Yogyakarta must be a nightmare to police but a joy for rival fans looking to take pot shots at their foes passing through their 'manor' and in the violence that followed one local resident who had been watching the game as a neutral died.

Inside the stadium itself we often hear of the large numbers of security personnel on duty but too often their reaction to any incident be it throwing plastic water bottles or worse is to wave their arms around from the other side of the fences in a futile gesture to soothe tensions. 

I recall one game where some supporters were getting highly agitated by what was happening on the pitch. First things were thrown on the field by irate fans. Security responded by waving their arms. Then some people started to climb the fencing and get on the field of play. Rather than nip in and nick these pioneers security backed off. Of course what happened next was obvious, you didn't need tea leaves. 

Other lads saw their mates on the pitch unhindered and thought 'hey ho, I'll have some of this' and over they went. Pretty soon the situation was getting out of hand and their were hundreds of fans on the field and the players had legged it down the tunnel. The security response was to use the ground's PA system to appeal to the fan's better nature. Didn't work of course and more and more supporters were joining their mates.

Eventually security forces reacted by charging the supporters who soon turned tail and ran themselves. In situations like this were police are being faced by increasing numbers of people they have been known to fire tear gas to try and control the situation and let's be honest while I am not condoning such an extreme action, you can understand how nervous they feel when faced by hundreds of angry youths.

My point is though the situation was allowed to escalate instead of being nipped in the bud when the first few jumped the fence.

I don't see how suspending the league for an indefinite period is going to address the issues I have addressed here. Let's hope the time is used for people to get together, by this I mean PSSI, government, security services and supporters and come up with a viable, sustainable nationwide programme of measures that sees, as a bare minimum, players and respected supporters (of which there are plenty) make highly visible visits to schools and kampung RTs, maybe with family members of the victims, to discuss fan behaviour and to drum into those a little slow on the uptake that beating the shit out of someone because he may support a different team or standing on top of a fast moving vehicle just ain't cool.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


Indonesia's Shame

In the USA a shooting spree that leads to mass casualties usually leads to the great and the good offering prayers while everyone else partakes in a orgy of hashtags before things go quiet and people move on to other topics.

Indonesia is pretty much the same whenever a football supporter dies either on their way to/from a game or during it. Prayers and pleas for this incident to be the last fill the airwaves and cyber space before people move on to to other topics.

On the one hand in this wired era where the rolling narrative ensures our attention is soon switched elsewhere society has developed the attention of a stick insect. On the other hand a cynic might suggest both in the US and Indonesia the 'wrong' sort of people are the victims and can be quickly forgotten. Be sure, if it were scions of the elite who were the victims we would be seeing action follow quickly on the heels of prayers and hashtags.

The tragedy in Bandung over the weekend which saw Hanggira Sirila lose his life wasn't of course the first this season. Because it was a Persib v Persija game it was the highest profile and made waves but who remembers William, an Persitara supporter who was beaten to death in August at a Liga 3 game? Hanggira became the 75th Indonesian to die at football in the last 23 years and if that is not a truly frightening statistic then I don't know what is

Hanggira of course is not a statistic and neither is William nor the other 73 fans who lost their lives over the years. As a body is beaten to death, or falls from a vehicle, they cease to become football supporters. They are human beings and like the rest of us their blood runs red. If all lives are precious why is this slaughter allowed to continue?

Timeline of Shame

1995 a Persebaya fan died watching his team play PSIM
1996  3 Persebaya fans fell from a train
1999 9 PSIS fans in a train incident in Jakarta
2001 1 PSIS fan beaten to death at a railway station in Jakarta
2002 1 Persijatim Solo fan in a truck accident
2002 1 Semen Padang fan beaten to death at a Persija game'
2002 1 Indonesian fan fell from a bus
2003 1 Persebaya fan in a truck accident
2003 1 Persebaya fan hit by a sharp object at a friendly against Persija
2005 1 Arema fan hit by a sharp object in an away game at Persekapbas
2005 1 Arema fan crushed to death in the crowd watching Persija
2005 1 Persija fan beaten to death in a game with Persipura
2005 1 PSIS fan fell from a train
2006 1 Persipura fan at a derby with Persiwa
2008 1 Persija fan attacked outside ground at a game with Persipura
2008 1 Persitara fan stabbed to death in game against Pelita Jaya
2010 2 Persebaya fans fell from a train heading to game at Persib
2010 1 Persik fan crushed to death in the crowd watching Persib
2011 1 PSIS fan fell from a train
2011 2 Persita fans killed in a brawl
2011 1 Pelita Jaya fan killed by a samurai sword
2011 1 Persela fan in an incident on a train
2011 2 Indonesian fans crushed at the SEA Games Final in Jakarta
2011 1 Persebaya fan in a brawl in Sidoarjo
2012 1 PSIS fan in a brawl between rival supporters of the same team
2012 1 PSIM fan in a brawl between rival supporter groups of the same team
2012 5 Persebaya fans in an incident when their train to Bojonegoro
2012 3 Persib fans in Jakarta
2012 1 Persebaya fan tear gassed
2012 1 PSCS fan returning from game in Solo attacked in Sleman
2013 1 Persebaya fan in a brawl with Arema fans
2013 1 PSPS fan in a brawl between rival PSPS supporters
2013 1 PSM fan stabbed at a game with Persepar
2014 1 Persiba Bantul fan in a brawl between Persiba fans
2014 1 Sriwijaya fan stabbed to death at a game with Persijap
2014 1 Persis fan in crowd violence after a game with Martapura
2014 3 Arema fans in a brawl with Persebaya fans on a toll road
2015 2 Arema fans in a brawl with Persebaya supporters
2016 1 Persija fan in an incident outside the ground
2016 1 PSS fan in a brawl with PSIM fans who were returning from an away game
2016 1 Sriwijaya fan in a brawl between Sriwijaya fans
2016 1 Persib fan fell from transport after a game
2016 1 Persib fan attacked after a game in Cikarang
2016 2 Persija fans died returning home from Solo. One fell from a vehicle, the other attacked
2017 1 Persija fan after seeing his team play Bali United
2017 1 Persib fan attacked
2017 1 Indonesian fan after being  hit by a firework at a friendly with Fiji
2017 1 Persita fan attacked at game with PSMS in Cibinong
2018 1 Arema fan following disturbances following a game with Persib
2018 1 neutral caught up in an incident in Bantul after local derby between PSIM and PSS
2018 1 Persitara fan part of a group of supporters involved in an incident in a market
2018 1 Persija fan in Bandung

So many deaths so many questions. Why are fans of the same team kicking the shit out of each other? I have been to numerous games where different fan groups don't even acknowledge the existence of other groups. One game had two different groups in an away end; one lot would stand up and sing then sit down and the other lot had their turn. In between they ignored each other. Who is allowing this shit to happen?

Why are supporters being allowed to travel on top of vehicles be they trains or mini buses. Oh yes, they do make for excellent photo opportunities but surely security officials don't need special health and safety training to know there is a danger of falling off a fast moving vehicle?

Fact is everyone shares a responsibility. Supporters for perpetuating irresponsible behaviour and football for taking no action. How many times do we hear about supporters trashing stadiums? It even happened this year after an expensive refit ahead of the Asian Games. Whose fault is that? Too often fans are quick to blame PSSI and yes, there are things that can be laid at their door. But not trashing stadiums, not throwing rocks and not beating the shit out of each other.

I've been here before. English football in the 1970s, 1980s wasn't a place for the feint hearted and no one wanted to take responsibility for the violence. Football said it was society's problem. The government said it was football's problem. meanwhile the police lapped up the over time and took the opportunity to dish out a few slaps at the weekend with no comeback.

It took and the Bradford City fire, which killed 56, and Hillsborough and the death of 96 fans to eventually force the government to knock heads together. Hopefully Indonesia doesn't need such disasters to force any kind of action. Anyway comparisons with England are not helpful. Indonesia has a vibrant football culture that has spread out across ASEAN but the beauty of the terrace choreography is on occasion marred by an ugliness that lies simmering under the surface.

Sadly these kind of disturbances aren't going to go away any time soon. The will isn't there and role models are few and far between. Players are only too happy to chase match officials if they feel hard done by. Some supporters are only too happy to try and go to and from a game, often travelling large distances, without paying a penny. 

There are positive role models out there. Well respected supporters at different teams who do their best to project best behaviour. But they can't change things alone. They need to be supported by the PSSI, the government and the clubs in a sustained way. They need to work together at a national level in a high profile way perhaps with some well respected players. They need to be out in the schools, working with security sending out positive messages beyond the usual, bland 'we ware all brothers'. 

There are initiatives at a local level but they need to be more consistent and better coordinated if they are to have any real impact in the kampungs and the gangs which are home to so many supporters.

However in a week when we have seen the head of the PSSI slap a supporter on the terraces and then go on TV and ask a reporter what right he has to ask questions you just know there is no will in high places to put an end to the deaths. 

Perhaps there will be talk about stopping the Liga 1 for a while. Perhaps play a few games behind closed doors. But these quick fix solutions won't solve the underlying issues that sees young lads climb on top of buses and trains, fight supporters of their own team or gang up mob handed on smaller numbers.

Just like in the USA meaningful action won't be taken and parents are left wondering who number 76 will be.

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