Violence in Indonesian football must come to a complete stop

John Duerden John Duerden

John Duerden is adamant that Indonesia have to stop football violence in order to progress after the ugly scenes from the weekend.

It is always pleasant to write something positive in football and that was the case last week when it came to Indonesia. Persija Jakarta broke AFC Cup attendance records with over 60,000 turning up to create a fantastic atmosphere against Johor Darul Ta’zim. After years of problems and negative publicity, it suggested that a corner had been turned.

There have been more corners in the history of Indonesian football however than in any game in the country. And despite all the signs, those corners seem to always lead back to the same old place.

This was shown once again at the weekend as the bad old days came back with a bang. Micko Pratama had gone to Solo to watch his team Persebaya take on PS Tira in Bantul. He never made it home and was killed. According to his devastated mother, he was due to celebrate his 17th birthday two days later.

There has been some of the usual hand-wringing and talk of how terrible it is but so common have fan deaths become in Indonesia that the media have become increasingly accustomed to it all. According to Save Our Soccer, a watchdog that monitors fan violence in the country, deaths since 1993 reached 54 in 2017. There is another to add to the tally now. It is incredible to see such numbers. It is incredible that so many people in Indonesia go to football games and don’t come back. And it is incredible that it still goes on and nobody does anything about it.

There has been the same old talk that this death of a young man about to start his adult life will make fans think again. That it will bring people together and show the thugs that do engage in violence that they have gone too far. But it hasn’t yet. It may well be that there is no traditional animosity between fans of PS and Persebaya but that will be of little comfort to the friends and family of Micko.

Events in Bantul were terrible but there were more outbreaks of violence around the country. Persib Bandung, one of the biggest clubs in the country went to Arema, another club of stature but has started the season very badly.

It was an exciting 2-2 draw. With Bandung coming back from a goal down to look like picking up a big away win to move into the top four, the hosts came back with a late equaliser.

Yet the headlines were rightly focused on a pitch invasion of the home fans. It ended with Mario Gomez, the head coach of Persib and a former boss of Malaysia’s JDT, with blood dripping from a wound on his forehead. There is some uncertainty as to what happened but it seems as if he was struck by something thrown by an invading supporter.

Once again, it does not need saying that this is unacceptable.

Anyone who has attended a number of games in Indonesia will have seen fans on the pitch for seconds or for minutes. There were a number of incidents last season with fans coming on the pitch when Persib Bandung vs Bhayangkara and PSIR Rembang and Persis Sola just two out of a number of examples.

Fining clubs a few thousand dollars and ordering a game or two to be played behind closed doors does not seem to work.

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This is part of the Indonesian supporting culture that has to stop. PSSI have to throw the book at Arema and any team that transgresses to make it clear that fans are not to enter the playing area. To see a 61 year-old man at a football match bleeding is a hugely uncomfortable image.

The millions of fans who go to games during an average year in Indonesia don’t deserve to be associated with people who carry out these kinds of attacks.

As well as the authorities however, it is the fans that need to be the ones who stamp out such violence. It is the vast majority of decent people who need to show no tolerance to violence or to any kind of activity that can cause the kind of situations we have just seen.

As written many times before, there is so much potential in Indonesian football. It is only behind China, India and the United States in terms of population but has more passion for the game than those three countries combined. Yet there is too much baggage that comes with the game and it weighs everyone down and stops any progression.

Just a week after showing the world the beautiful side of Indonesian football, the ugly side has returned with a vengeance. This can’t keep happening.