Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Stop This Fucking Madness
According to Save Our Soccer, a football action group in Indonesia, 51 fans have died either going to or watching football over a 21 year period. 51 fans have gone to see their favourite team never to return home alive. As statistics go that is fairly damning. While politicians and military types vie for votes ahead of the much delayed PSSI elections nothing is said about the death of young Indonesians.
Just last weekend a Persib fan was attacked and beaten to death as he was leaving the stadium in Cikarang after seeing his team defeat Gresik United. As the above chart shows he is the fourth Persib fan to die over the period.
6 fans were trampled to death including two at the SEA Games Final in 2011
7 fans fell from trains or buses. It is an all too common sight to see fans riding the roof of trains or buses and nothing seems to be done to stop them.
12 fans were stabbed
1 fan was shot
Some fans were killed after fighting between rival groups who supported the same team. Five were killed at the same game!
These numbers are shocking. A disgrace. Yet people grow immune to them. It happens so often.
What is being done about it? Nothing. PSSI candidates are spouting meaningless platitudes, Alfred Riedl is being given nonsensical targets ahead of the ASEAN Football Federation Championships next month. Words are cheap and all we get are words.
One of the attractions for me of Indonesian football is the similarities between what we see now and what I grew up enjoying in England. Unfortunately the violence is another similarity but one we could do without. In England you pretty much could tell where something might kick off and while bystanders may have taken the odd slap, as I did, they were not the target. Firms would target rival firms to get their jollies and they grew quite sophisticated how they went about it.
Fans would try to take another team's end, railway stations were likely venues for a toe to toe. Violence was organised, fans would meet up, go for a beer and hope for a row. Things are a bit different in Indonesia. Fans can travel around the country in relative safety, PS TNI v Persija not withstanding, as the fans themselves do the organising and coordination with various forms of transport, security official etc. Where there is a risk of serious disorder away fans will usually stay home or travel incognito in small numbers. At the other extreme league officials do their best to ensure clubs with especially fierce rivalry are placed in different groups. This is what happens in Central Java, including Yogyakarta, for example or with the Tangerang duo of Persita and Persikota.
Indonesian violence is less organised, more spontaneous. The latest fatality was attacked by a mob was he was heading home from the stadium. A Persija fan was attacked near a top hotel on the way to the stadium. And while there was a feeling in England back in the day that once a guy was down and done it was over, move on, in Indonesia a mob frenzy takes over and when someone is down they become fair game for others who may not want to start a row but don't mind getting involved when the odds are on their side and they won't get hurt.
The dynamics and demographics of Indonesian football fans means an English style approach, ie club membership schemes, will not necessarily work. All Indonesians already carry an identity card. In theory they could be used as a mechanism for controlling movements where there is a risk of violence but while the idea of a firm may be evolving they are not necessarily the ones who carry out the excesses and as we have seen with the fatality last weekend the attackers probably weren't even at the game.
Match day is too haphazard, too messy for any kind of serious crowd control. Police and security officials are out in large numbers and maintain a visible presence inside and immediately outside the stadium but the approaches to and from the stadium are often seen as a problem of traffic rather than potential sites for violence. If something kicks off it can take a while before any security officials can get to the scene as the video shows.
Without wishing to sound too gloomy it is difficult to see anything changing in the near future unless there is a cultural shift. Indonesia faces other troubles, maritime issues, extremism, haze, developing infrastructure; sitting back and saying the government must do something is an argument on a par with the old 'it is what it is'. Nothing more than an absolution of responsibility. Fans, clubs, security and government have roles to play in making the football watching experience less fraught with danger and if we all do nothing then nothing will change.
*The chart above and the table below come from Save Our Soccer, an Indonesian football action group.