mercredi 13 février 2008

The ugly side of Indonesia's beautiful game

The ugly side of Indonesia's beautiful game

By: Antony Sutton

Thursday January 17, 2008Thursday morning saw the East Javanese city of Kediri counting the cost of hosting the Liga Indonesia Play Offs.

During the previous night’s clash between Arema Malang and Persiwa Wamena, Arema fans, incensed by officials disallowing three goals invaded the pitch after 70 minutes, attacked match officials and caused the game to be halted.

Officials and players ran for cover as supporters set fire to one goal, smashed up the other and went on an orgy of destruction. Another football match. Another riot.

Indonesians this morning glanced at the headlines, tut tutted and moved on. It’s not the first and it won’t be the last time football fans have dragged the game into the cesspit.

Football mirrors society. Turn on the nightly news here and you’ll see a brawl somewhere in the islands, people yelling, others waving their arms, police standing by helpless. Land, religion, jobs, anything is fair game. Football, with its notions of identity and its passion, is no exception.
There are two types of crowd disorder that afflict football here. One is the good old fashioned punch up that used to blight the terraces in England - home and away fans battering each other for the ‘pride’ of their team.

In independent Indonesia there is Unity in Diversity but everyone is Indonesian. Centuries of being Sundanese, Javanese, Bugis, Minangkabau were swept away by the founding fathers, but the ethnicity lives on and the terraces become the battleground.

Large traveling support is rare here. When it does happen there is a likelihood of trouble as home fans take offence to away fans on their turf. Recent examples included Persib Bandung traveling to PSS and Persita in large numbers with incidents both inside and outside the grounds marring the day. Persita’s Benteng Stadium backs on to the local government offices but plenty of rocks lie round and the home support took full advantage, lobbing them into the Persib fans for much of the game.

Responsibility for crowd behaviour rests with the Supporters’ clubs. They liaise with each other and make arrangements for travel. Close ties between Supporters’ officials can make games pass trouble free. Recently Persija traveled by train to Sidoarjo for a Copa tie. Some 300 fans traveled by train and were met along the way by fans of the local teams, PSIS and Persela who had arranged for there to be food and washing facilities. In Sidoarjo the local fans welcomed the visitors and the game passed off without a hitch.

Occasionally when there is a high risk fixture, fans take the decision not to travel. The recent fixture between Persebaya and Arema is an example. With Arema needing points to qualify for the Play Offs, and Persebaya being their bitterest foes, the decision was made not to make the short journey so as to avoid incidents. Likewise, Persib fans will never travel to the capital city of Jakarta and Persija fans will never make the journey to Bandung.

More common is the second type of disorder. This typically comes about when fans are disgruntled by events on the pitch. Usually the referee or some opposition player has done something to raise their ire and they start throwing plastic water bottles on to the pitch. Throwing bottles is less risky than throwing punches as they are less likely to be returned. Play stops for a few moments as security personnel look on while Supporters’ club officials step in to cool tempers. Once the situation has calmed and players and officials feel less intimidated, play resumes.

In England, a number of factors combined to reduce incidents of hooliganism. Severe penalties, smarter policing, increased use of Close Circuit TV (CCTV), and improved, all seater stadiums have all played their part. So has increased home ownership. People with mortgages, or car loans or credit card debts, tend not to riot as they have too much to lose.

Kids who go to football in Indonesia don’t get credit cards, they don’t drive cars and they can’t get housing loans. If they get caught they have nothing to lose. But they don’t get caught. They may, at worst, be stuck in a cell for a few days. There won’t be court, there won’t be detention centres, it’s all too much paper work.

Moviemaker and Persija fan Andibachtiar Yusuf was once arrested by the police at a game between PSM and Persebaya. After a couple of days in the cells he was released without charge. Irlan, who strongly featured in the documentary ‘The Jak’ about Persija fans, was once arrested for hitting a policeman at a local derby with Persitara. After six days in the cells he paid a ‘fine’ and was sent on his way.

Getting on the pitch for the determined fan is easy. Police stand idly by and watch. At the end of every Persija home game, kids scale the fences to get on the pitch and mob their heroes. At some stadiums wire mesh is all that keeps fans from the pitch. The stadiums are government owned and starved of investment, crumbling terraces back onto stone filled car parks or waste ground which are a wannabe hooligan’s delight.

At the end of the day there are people who enjoy smashing things or people up. As one of the goals blazed at the Brawijaya Stadium in Kediri, a few Arema fans walked on to the pitch, grinned at the TV cameras and gave the thumbs up. They enjoyed seeing the linesman pole axed, they enjoyed seeing one of their own run 50 metres and punch another linesman. They enjoyed smashing up the trains on the way home. It’s mindless violence and they don’t mind because they don’t pay.

Like in England, there is no quick fix to the Indonesia’s problems of crowd trouble. Fighting the thugs will need everyone, politicians, police, football and the fans working closely together and it will need firm, decisive leadership.

Sadly, there is no sign of either on the horizon.

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