Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Death of Indonesian Supporters (Part I)

Oleh Darmanto Simaepa

The series of football violence in Surabaya, Jakarta and Yogyakarta in February-May 2012, where five supporters died and several injured, once again, reveals the dark side of Indonesian football. Although that violence had occurred in a close time, there is a slight dissimilarity among them. In the Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) stadium, the assault and abterry of the Jak’s Mania to visitors who suspected as the member of rival group the Vikings have showed the classic of the Indonesian football riots. GBK’s violence could be seen as a ‘spontaneous reaction’ to what happened on the pitch when some violent supporters angry because of the presence of their rivals. However, the death of Nurul Huda and Pandu’s heavily maltreatment, both in Yogyakarta, tells a new pattern of violence among the football fans.

Although the motives of attackers have not been identified clearly yet, the violence in Yogyakarta is just not spontaneous but looks like a well-planned measure. Especially, it is clear in the case of Pandu. Local newspapers report that the oppressor took their action outside the stadium. The attackers did the violence with a particular reason and prepared their action. Surprisingly, both of the oppressor and the victim have similar identity as PSS Sleman’s club supporters and they also live in the same region. The fact that the oppressors have selected a young boy as a victim is not indicates that it is classic example of an adolescent football fighting such an in Europe (Young and Giulinotti 1996: 174). Moreover, the difference of violence in Jakarta and Yogyakarta represents both of continuity and change of violence patterns in contemporary Indonesian football life.

The massive violence in Indonesian football history reflects the mirror of Indonesian socio-politics, but also reveals the interwoven of football and politics as well as football and society (Colombijn 2001: 173). The series of violence shows the continuation of a long-standing behaviour of Indonesian supporter on the pitch, but also reveals the changing pattern of violence that they deploy and the social circumstances surround them. For instances, spontaneous fighting among the supporters such as in GBK case is not a new phenomena. This kind of violence has been connected with the development of Indonesia football almost from the beginning. Fighting among the visitors in the football match as well as players with the supporter in the pitch was reported regularly in 1920s. As Dutch scholar Freek Colombijn shown (2001:193-194), several cup-final match in Padang, Pontianak and Batavia in colonial periods ended in a massive fight. One of the characteristic of mass fighting in the past is the brawlers were not anonymous adolescents, but adult.

There is significant pattern of football riot in 1970s and before. Before regular competition so-called GALATAMA and Kompetisi Perserikatan (Association Competition) in mid-1970, there was no routinely league, so the club was not play regularly. In the colonial period, the clubs played only in special moment such the birthday of Netherland’s Queen or New Years Day (Palupi 2004: 82). During 1950s-1960s, with the political turn-moil, the competition was not implemented in regular-base. The player changed their club frequently as well as their supporters. At that time, the composition of the groups of supporters was ephemeral and there was no club loyalty of a permanent core fans. Consequently, the football riots was seen as spontaneous reaction. The lack of solid supporters organization indicated that the football violences was not structured.

Contrary with the past, the current Indonesia supporters settle down to a particular club. They organized themselves like professional fans and create a loyal and fanatic fan along the district, province or city. The group of supporter, especially in the big cities like Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya, is predominantly, although not always, by youth. Surprisingly, the current phenomena of violence is marked by co-supporters’ fighting, and an internal conflict within the supporters the club is reported regularly.

It is believed, some of the contemporary violence have linked with the struggle to gain a greater control over supporter organization and paralleled with the conflict over football association (PSSI). Remarkably several supporters use a new method of mobilization and violence that is used to European fanatics fans. Speculatively, the changing pattern of violence is results of combination of internal dynamics within supporters, the new tensions of controlling football association, and the dynamics politics (local or national) surrounded football organization.

Cultural Explanation

Despite the violence is a part of football games in Indonesia for a long time, there is limited social explanation what exactly happen with the football culture. One of the few social explanation in this field is cultural perspective which was used by Dutch scholar Freek Colombijn in The Politics of Indonesian Football (2001). Drawing through his research in Padang, West Sumatra, he shows that the football violence in late colonial period was associated with the colonial policy concerning a plural society in the East-Indies. In the late colonial periods, there was social differentiation and segregation along the European resident, Indo (Arabic, Chinese, India) and native people. Football match was a sport that drew together different races or ethnic groups, who otherwise met only at the market (Furnivall 2010). Meanwhile, the native people also organized themselves along the ethnic group such as Java, Minangkabau, Batak, or Minahasan.

A football pitch was an opportunity to express ethnic identity in opposition to other ethnic groups. Most clubs in Padang were races or ethnically assembled and matches were a way of expressing feeling against social categories. In early history of Indonesia football, the violence of supporters had occurred among the European with Chinese team as well Chinese with native spectators both in Java and in Outer Island (Colombijn 2001: 194). Eventually, the football match was the way ethnic distinction with the concomitant social inequality was reinforced, and the mass fighting in the pitch expressed it.

Furthermore, Colombijn argued that it was possible to extend the cultural explanation to the post-war periods of Indonesian football. Drawing from Javanese culture as numerically dominant group in Indonesia, he described that the Indonesian players and visitors forced to avoid the conflict and disorder on the pitch. This idea basically comes from the Javanese culture about strict order, social harmony and behavioural controls. The idea of conformity and conflict avoidance, Colombijn said, is problematic in a football match, where football is an ‘explicit conflict’ through physically contact for players. Loosing and disappointment are the part of the game. Certainly, this is impossible for Javanese players or supporters to avoid conflict and to hide their disappointment in a crowded stadium. When the tension quickly increases, the reaction for the players and supporters under such strain is the breaking up of self control, and the fight on the pitch is explodes.

The cultural explanation is helpful to explain the violence in the context of colonial periods and the early football history in Indonesia, but as Colombijn also said (p. 294), it is full of hypothesis and partial. There is the cultural essentialism aspect in Colombijn’s perspective. As a critical anthropologist mentioned (Marcus and Clifford 1985, Otner 1999), there is no cultural relation between the ethnicity and the practice of culture or action such as in the case of football violence. His explanation could not use to explaining contemporary behaviour of supporters and players. Especially in the last decade, the violence was not done by Javanese exclusively, but also occurred in Outer Island. For example, the massive fighting in Mattoangin Stadium, Makassar caused four supporter died in 2002 as well as in remote area such as in Wamena Papua or Deli Serdang in West Sumatra.

As an illustration, the Jakmania and the Vikings, two of supporter group who have reputation as master of fighting and have regularly punished by association, just possess a small number of Javanese members. The Jakmania comprises an ethnic mixture across Indonesia and the Viking is dominated by the Sundanese. In addition, the players that were punished by association due to their violence action on the pitch are mostly the foreign players such as the famous Uruguayan-born player Christiano Gonzales and Brazilian Marcio Souza.


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