Monday, February 1, 2010

Abandon all hope ye who watch football in Jakarta

According to Wikitravel, a reasonably reliable user-generated travel site, I was taking my life in my own hands.

"It is not advisable to watch any live football match in Jakarta," the website warns, "because the Jakmania, Persija Jakarta's ultras, often turn into rioters."

But buoyed by journalistic bravado, the knowledge that I had survived visits to equally scary places (Millwall, Grimsby, etc) and the sound advice of Jakarta Casual, one of the most knowledgeable voices on Indonesian football, I headed down to the Lebak Bulus stadium, wearing my brown trousers as an extra precaution.

Jakarta Casual informed me that while fans of the visiting team, Persijap, had had their coach stoned in Semarang on the way to Jakarta, the Persija fans would extend a somewhat warmer welcome.

And he was right. Before the game, die-hard fans from both clubs exchanged scarfs in a gesture of goodwill.

Contrary to warnings, I didn't see any violence at the game, though it's worth noting that Persija have no keen rivalry with Persijap. Just thousands of young Jakartans - the not so fearsome Jakmania - enjoying their day out.

While the quality of the football was pretty poor, the atmosphere was great. On the way to and from the stadium, fans crammed into and onto buses, minibuses and cars, beating drums, chanting and dancing on the vehicle roofs in precarious fashion.

Inside the stadium, where around 15,000 people were crammed into a 12,000 capacity venue (just one of many health and safety issues), the chanting continued in regimented fashion, with "conductors" climbing up the security fences (the kind that were banned in the UK after the Hillsborough disaster) and leading their fellow fans in song.

Suffice to say, no one paid too much attention to the game. The fireworks kicked off toward the end of the match and I'm not talking about on-the-pitch brawls. The Jakmania obviously had no other way to express their delight at their imminent 0-0 draw with Persijap than to set off rockets from the stand.

In a creaking, overcrowded stadium with no stewards to speak of and only a handful of disinterested police, it was not the sort of thing to fill you with much confidence. In the event of a fire breaking out, this would be stampede central.

Rather unhelpfully, the stadium was also located down a single access so getting in and out was a complete nightmare - little surprise in a city not exactly known for its intelligent urban planning.

After the game, as I waited for a taxi outside a nearby Carrefour supermarket, the Persija fans streamed past on the motorbikes, honking and shouting, much to the dismay of the middle-class Jakartans who were waiting for their drivers to pick them up.

It was all, however, in good humour. I'll have to return to watch a game against one of Persija's real rivals to see if that's still the case.





  1. you should watch if they play against PERSIB Bandung, that's the real Indonesian football experience.

  2. or with persebaya surabaya..not in lebak bulus,but in Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.. PERSIJA SAMPAI MATI..