Football is one of the most beloved sports in Indonesia. The fanaticism is great and compared to the Netherlands it seems that Indonesian people go even further. During my trip I came in close contact with this fanaticism, and experienced also the danger it can get you in when you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. In this small post I would like to give you a little impression about the football club from Surabaya: Persebaya. The reason I highlight this specific club is because I experienced them from close by when I was travelling in Surabaya. To give you an idea what it’s like to see the supporters from Persebaya, calling themselves Bonek (abbreviation of ”Bondo Nekat” means literally “The Reckless People”) here is a small video of them I made myself.
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Some background information about the video:
At the time of filming I was at the back of the motor of a friend that is originally from Surabaya. We were heading to a place to have some dinner but on the way we came in this parade of Persebaya supporters. It was pretty impressive and while we were driving in between them we were not realising how dangerous it actually was. In the end it looks pretty spectacular with all the fire torches and supporters going crazy. When the video stops we were through the parade and we could move on.
What that night happened
Later that night it became clear how dangerous it was as we heard that the supporters damaged public property and even a police car. On the way back to my hotel we almost got hit by a few policemen. Luckily for us they saw just in time we were not supporters. After we passed those policemen we saw what would happen if they would hit us… two Bonek supporters in the front-left of us got hit and their helmet and scooter got broken. They were lucky and could still get away. If they had fallen they probably would have had a big problem.
Why Persebaya protested
Persebaya played in a competition from a different football association than the PSSI (Football Association of Indonesia). Because of this reason PSSI had decided to stop recognising Persebaya as one of its members. This meant that they couldn’t enter Indonesia’s premier club football competition.
On the same day the Bonek protested in Surabaya they also protested in Jakarta. It took some time but after some more protests from Persebaya supporters and discussions at the PSSI, in January 2017 the Bonek fans got their way. PSSI reinstated Persebaya as a member again.
My friend and I got lucky and didn’t get hurt during this parade of football supporters. Fanaticism is okay, but in the way people sometimes choose to express it I just simply can’t understand. Even in the Netherlands there is a fight sometimes. Only in Indonesia I experienced it for the first time from that close by. Probably as the fanaticism grows the intensity the police needs to react on it too. I would never think of police hitting people that hard with big sticks like that. This is something you just don’t come across in my country. Next time you see a parade you probably want to take some distance. Also watch out you are not wearing any wrong colours of clothing, because maybe the police or some football supporters will attack you.