Back Being Red

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In the past few years, my football world has been totally dominated by Juventus. Timnas (National Team) rarely got public attention, especially after the dramatic penalty shoot-out loss against Malaysia at the Gold Medal Match of SEA Games 2011 at Gelora Bung Karno. I remembered watching Andik Vermansah’s late winner against Singapore at AFF 2012, but I had no more memories afterwards. Since AFF 2016 was going to happen, I thought I may revive my Timnas memory and (at the same time) my faith in the country’s unity.

I believe you all know how frustrating the current political situation in Indonesia is. It is unsurprising if some friends stated that they may consider giving up their Indonesian citizenship, or (to the very least) permanently leaving Indonesia, if the outcome of this chaos is not good. For me personally, saying that such thoughts never came to my mind is a denial.

So, to divert my mind from such thoughts, I watched AFF Cup again.

At the end, Stefano Lilipaly’s late strike against (again) Singapore brought Timnas back to AFF semifinal after 6 years, which led to a scream in a silent NTU Hall 16. Probably no Singaporeans cared about the match and hence nobody kicked me out of hall gave a shit (and it was exam period), but it was an emotional moment for me. I started thinking of coming to the stadium again.

I have attended 2 Timnas matches: a 0-2 loss against Bahrain (World Cup 2014 Qualifier) on 6th September 2011 and a 2-0 victory against Vietnam (SEA Games 2011 Semifinal) on 19th November 2011. Both were at Gelora Bung Karno. Time flies so fast for me to realize that I have not been at GBK for 5 years. Therefore, the desire to come to the semifinal vs Vietnam was strong, even though I have been too ignorant about Indonesian football to know that GBK is being renovated for Asian Games 2018. When PSSI decided to use Pakansari Stadium in Cibinong to hold the semifinal match, I straightaway tried to find how far Cibinong is from Planet Bekasi. Indeed it is painfully far, and as the match was held one day after my flight to Jakarta, I decided to skip this match and rest at home.

As Timnas miraculously survived My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi and advanced to final, somehow the desire to come to the stadium appeared again despite knowing that Pakansari was definitely going to be the venue again. When my friend (Steven) asked me to come together with him, I finally decided to come no matter what happened. Long story short, 2 tickets were secured.

Coming to Pakansari felt different. There was no glamorous feeling like GBK (I know GBK was a bit old, but the surrounding area is high-class). Even the name itself sounds like a stockbreeding for me, although I later found that the name Pakansari comes from the area’s name. Reaching there was also another thing, which perhaps becomes a norm in Indonesia (Gelora Bandung Lautan Api in Bandung and Gelora Bung Tomo in Surabaya both have poor accessibility). From Jakarta, the fastest way to go by public transportation is by taking CommuterLine until Bojong Gede Station, which is still around 7 km from the stadium. To make things worse, for this type of popular match, even ojeks (motorbike taxis) are only allowed to go until the nearby gas station, and from there you still need to walk for 1 km.

The stadium is open from 2014, however the exterior made me think that the stadium is not yet finished. The building may have good quality, but construction equipment is still there. And the worst of all, the area outside the stadium is somehow left undeveloped. Parking slots are extremely limited because most of the area is just a field of clay. Since it had been raining since afternoon… the clay dirt everyone’s shoes.

Difficulty in entering the stadium complex
Wet clay everywhere…

^That was before the match. After the match, the white soles was totally full of sticky clay 🙁

“Time for a quiz, what is the characteristic of the majority of Indonesian supporters who came to Pakansari Stadium last night? Check their shoes”

“KRL (Jakarta’s Commuter Line) is also dirty as it becomes the witness of final at Pakansari :))”

“The shoes becomes like this from white”

Knowing that some ticket holders in the semifinal were unable to enter the stadium because of overcapacity (hey you and your same old story, PSSI), I entered the stadium at 4 PM. Definitely way too early, but better stay inside rather than not getting a good seat. Anyway, coming early enabled me to see some interesting banners being posted. One example was the Thai supporters who sat across my seat. They posted the “Pray for Indonesia” banner, and the crowd clapped as an appreciation. Respect :’)

These Thai supporters were passionate. After putting the banner, they showed their trophy replica – followed by waving their giant flag – which unfortunately made them booed by the crowd. They did not stop there, though. They then showed boards forming “FRIEND”. What a gesture! A few days ago I read a post by a South-east Asian football analyst, on which he wrote about how Thailand supporters consider Indonesia as their best friend in football. In any online posts, they always comment positively on us, even they hoped that they would meet us in the final.

Thailand fans zone

But this one, son, was undoubtedly the best banner. I saw this one, but it was far and small enough for my phone to capture.

“Football is a tool of struggle” – Tan Malaka.

As it went closer to the match, supporters started filling the stadium and made the atmosphere familiar again. Yes, the magical atmosphere I was longing. The fact that the stadium only hosts less than half of GBK’s capacity indeed impact the intensity of the noise, however the feeling remained the same. Chants such as Garuda di Dadaku and Sore Ini were practised, and a giant flag was being prepared. It was going to be huge!

Preparing the Giant Flag

The Giant Flag was indeed amazing. It was first waved when Indonesia Raya was being played (see below video at the 25th second) and a few times in the second half. About the size… I did not know it was that huge until I waved it together with others. It took around 14 seconds from my first to my last touch on the flag (02:36 until 02:50 of the YouTube video).

As we know, Indonesia were trailing 0-1 at half-time. It was a frustrating moment for us supporters. We chanted eagerly in the beginning of the match, but probably some of us were discouraged when Andik left the field. We went even more silent when Teerasil Dangda scored. We started booing Zulham instead because he consistently lost the ball and his passing was inaccurate. With no shots on goal for Indonesia in the first half, we thought that what we feared before the match (but we hid it inside us) was true: that Thailand is not on our level.

But when the break came, the conductor started asking people to be bolder in supporting the team. One of them even said:

“Woi, kalo nonton bola itu berdiri! Kalo duduk doang mah nonton bokep aja!”
// “Hey, you must stand up if you watch football! If you just sit down, you better watch porn movies instead!”

It was totally not an inspiring word to fuel people, but apparently people became aware that they were there for a reason: to support Timnas. So when the second half started, we started singing Indonesian national songs from Indonesia Raya to Indonesia Pusaka and also Garuda di Dadaku as the de facto Timnas anthem. It was thrilling, to the extent that probably 30000 people sang with the same total voice as 7.343 million 70000 people at GBK.

And was that enough? No! We waved the gigantic flag several times. We went all out to encourage our players.

Our increased support did not go in vain. Timnas started controlling the match, and Rizki Pora’s shot got deflected to make Kawin Tsamsatchanan stuck. The crowd went wild. GAME ON! The lost belief came again.

Probably Thailand has a concentration problem after conceding. Similar to the first match when Indonesia scored 2 goals within a short interval, this time Indonesia gained dominance again, which led to Zulham Zamrud’s shot which was seen by spectators as a goal. We screamed, but later we knew it was just a corner.

But that man came again. His name was… Hansamu Yama. Our own Sergio Ramos.

The one who got blamed the most before the tournament began after injuring Irfan Bachdim, his high header tricked Kawin to score our second and we could not hold it anymore. UNBELIEVABLE! We went crazier than before, and probably our chant after the goal lasted for at least 5 minutes.

Both teams made several chances, but the score remained. WE WON! I know 2-1 at home is always a fragile victory because a 0-1 defeat in Bangkok will be enough for Thailand to win the title, but this Thailand is by far the best team in the tournament. It is no surprise if the players were in tears because this was indeed a huge and emotional victory, which sent a signal to everyone that Indonesia is alive and ready to fight.

For me, this was the best Timnas match I attended. Victory against Vietnam in 2011 was smooth and as expected, but this victory is against all odds. Just like any other things, it will be more meaningful when you least expect it.

And above everything else, this match sent a stronger signal to every Indonesian:

Indonesia has been polarized by those people who politicize religion issue for their own gain and power, and I think a lot of people are tired of it. But last night showed that we can go together and forget our political affiliation. I did not see political banners or chants at all, and we did not need to boast on social media (cough that “super peaceful” event which still chanted about Ahok and that “bhinneka” parade which brought a lot of political party flags cough). Our Timnas is both coached and captained by non-Muslim… and nobody cares! Hopefully with this, we realize the strong bond that we have together regardless of differences among us, and do not let radicalism and other dangerous ideologies affect us.

And so, last night was magical. I am truly aware that this happiness may evaporate easily on Saturday if Thailand beat us, but nevertheless, this team has exceeded the expectation. With that, I hope that they will play without pressure in Bangkok and exceed the expectation even more. Kami Rindu Juara!

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