PSS Sleman Supporters Get Real Amid Deadly Football Attacks
It is not easy being a fan of Indonesian football. The game is seen by the country as a magnet for trouble while politicians view the mostly male, mostly young fan base as potential vote banks.
Supporting your local team means, in the eyes of many, being a thug.
That, of course, isn’t true. Having grown up in England in the late 1970s I can assure you not every skinhead was a racist and not every football fan was a hooligan despite the headlines to the contrary.
Football has been in the news recently in Indonesia and as ever it has been for the wrong reason. Three fans died after a brawl at Gelora Bung Karno stadium after a game between rivals Persija Jakarta and Persib Bandung.
A week later a fan died after clashes between Persebaya Surabaya fans and police.
Four people dead in one week attending football matches.
There are now three police forces who are banning football matches under their jurisdiction; add Tangerang where an Islamic organization declared the game haram, or forbidden, after years of outbreaks of violence between the fans of the two local teams.
Amid all this horror it is difficult to find any good news stories. Perhaps people don’t want to read about the positives. Perhaps anything that breaks the mould, anything that sheds football fans in a different light is unwelcome. Far easier to tarnish all fans with the same brush.
Sleman isn’t a big town, more a suburb of Yogyakarta. Their local team, PSS, has never really set Indonesian football alight during their short history and they currently ply their trade in the second tier Divisi Utama of the ‘official’ league.
I first came across their support about five years ago. Not many away teams brought large numbers of fans to Jakarta to play Persija. PSS did. About 700 made the long journey that day and although they were well thumped, their fans never stopped supporting their team throughout the 90 minutes.
More recently I saw them play Persipasi in Ciracas. A drifting, mid-table team, they still brought seven bus loads of supporters for the game plus the local PSS fans, students or people who had migrated to the big city for work.
Some 300 fans again kept up a noise throughout the game, comfortably out singing the home support. And at the end, when things got nasty on the field, a handful of stewards prevented more excitable elements of the support from getting involved.
It was a good, mature performance all round from the fans and one which the team could learn much from.
Unfortunately the PSS support easily gets overlooked when people die at football matches.
One section of their support, the Brigata Curva Sud (BCS), know a thing or two about fans dying. They recently held a charity night to raise funds for the relative of three of their members who had dies in recent months.
They auctioned shirts signed by players as well as other football memorabilia and over the course of the evening raised close on Rp 25 million for the relatives.
Not a story that received much, if any, prominence in the national media but, perhaps, that is why it needs telling.