Attending Persib Bandung vs Persija Jakarta: A Matchday Experience
The road to Jalak Harupat Stadium that day looked like Paris after the allied troops liberated the city from Nazi occupation. As the parade of football fans advanced on wheels by foot to football grounds, the locals were present on both sides of the road to cheer for their stadium-bound fellows. You could feel the festivity, the ambience of tribal feast is in the air. Everybody was up for the big occasion of the day, the derby match against Persija Jakarta which is one of the most important fixtures in Indonesian football.
I’m a regular attendant every time the derby is held in Jakarta but had never have the chance to see the corresponding event in Bandung, so when the opportunity knocked on my door, I seized it. The Persija verses Persib match can get really heated and is usually a no-go for away-team supporters as the police can’t guarantee their safety. Even if there are some opposing fans who dare to go behind enemy lines, they will go clandestine, ditching their club colors at home. Automobiles with Jakarta plate are advised not to go anywhere near the stadium as the same thing advised for cars with Bandung plate in Jakarta once the match comes to the capital.
The journey to the stadium itself is nothing short of extraordinary. Jalak Harupat Stadium is located on the fringe of Bandung and it takes 45 to 60 minutes to get there, depends on the traffic. It’s relatively remote compared to Siliwangi Stadium which is located at the heart of the city and limited road access to the venue means a traffic inferno. I rode with my Persib-supporting friends and we had to park our car approximately 1 kilometer from the grounds because the traffic has jammed with a sea of blue.
It’s fascinating how football triggers a trickle down effect on the surrounding community of the football ground so they can get benefits for themselves. All the houses on the road lead to stadium were suddenly transformed into motorcycle parking spots. Not only on the front yard and in the garage, they even shoehorned the motorcycles in their living rooms so they could put more vehicles inside.
I’ve heard stories of how football supporters in Europe passionately travel to the ground through snow and sleet, but I bet they have never experienced anything like Jalak Harupat in a rainy day. The road is jammed with motorcycles who insisted on take their vehicles as close to the stadium as possible, so those who travel on foot had to take a different path: through the paddy fields. It was rather a comical view to see the fierce-looking football diehards completely dressed in their colors stepping carefully on the banks of paddy fields, and since it’s slippery, many lost their balance and fell into the mud. A friend jokingly suggested that this is the true face of Indonesian football — agrarian football.
I was already half-covered in mud when I got to the stadium and it was as expected, extremely crowded. Most of the fans who weren’t inside of the stadium 30 minutes prior to kickoff were assumed to not have any ticket. They just wanted to be there for the sake of the atmosphere, or worse, they were waiting for the right time to tear down the gates and force their way inside. Some came up with a more clever idea and used ropes to climb the wall. It’s surely a match that nobody wanted to miss.
The game itself, like most of Indonesian domestic club games, was hardly sensational. Persib won the game 1-0 with a penalty kick.
When I was about to depart from Jakarta earlier that day, all of my friends suggested that I be very careful because, although I don’t support either team, I’m still a Jakartan after all and they in Bandung don’t really like Jakartans, especially on derby day.
My Jakartan accent almost got me into a trouble after the match. My Bandung friend was away to the toilet when a local approached me and started a conversation in Sunda language. I understood what he said but I replied in Indonesian with Jakartan accent and suddenly more of his friends came. I sensed trouble and pulled myself out quickly but they turned to my other friend who doesn’t know anything about Sunda language and he was struggling to explain himself to them until my Bandung friend came back and everything was settled.
We had been mistaken of being The Jakmania – the supporters of Persija. Detecting intruders through accent identifying has been a common practice for both set of fans and at the end we were laughing because a simple yet critical misunderstanding like that could have been costly.
Our laughs didn’t last long, however, when we were told that we had to wait for three hours for the traffic jam to clear before we can go home.
What a tiring but pleasant experience.