Indonesia's Not So Beautiful Game
Image Credit: Gunawan Kartapranata

Indonesia's Not So Beautiful Game


Just a few days after European giant Inter Milan played an exhibition match at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, three fans were killed at the same arena during a domestic league match.

Indonesian football is a mess and has been so for some time. Yet last Sunday’s clash between  two of the country’s biggest rivals clubs Persija Jakarta and Persib Bandung, witnessed by over 70,000,supporters, marked a new low as clashes outside the arena led to the sad deaths.

The nation loves football like few others in Asia, but the game is rife with corruption, incompetence and worse.

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A corner seemed to have been turned in April 2011. That was when Nurdin Halid, the long-serving president of the country’s football association, PSSI, was barred from being re-elected from a third term. Nurdin had been imprisoned twice on corruption charges while running the country’s highest football body. FIFA finally came to its senses, suspended the leadership of the PSSI and helped to instigate elections.

By that time, a rebel league had emerged to challenge the PSSI-run league and a number of clubs broke away to join the new competition, tired of the corruption and incompetence.

Strangely (or perhaps not given the nature of the game in the country) the rebel league of 2011, the Premier League, has become the official league in 2012, while the legit Super Liga is now off-limits.

Unofficial or not, the Super Liga refused to take responsibility for the deaths.

“We organized the match, but we will only say it's our fault if it's proven that they were fighting over football,” official Syahril Taher told AFP. “The clash happened after the match outside the stadium, so we will have to investigate what caused it before we can say we are responsible.”

FIFA is tired of all the problems in Indonesia and has told PSSI to sort the Super Liga problem out by June 15 or risk suspension from the international game. After the national team lost 10-0 in Bahrain in a 2014 World Cup qualifier earlier this year, some fans may say that is not a bad thing. But for a country with so much potential in the game, the problems at the top are depressing.

And, of course, people dying at football matches is a different thing altogether.

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