Foreigners are discouraged to go to domestic football games. The crowd is perceived as being dangerous; riots are said to break out regularly and fighting and all sorts of violence is common. Moreover, the fans pride themselves on their violence, their toughness, their hardness (Fuller 2016). They adopt names of renowned hooligan groups from England or elsewhere and seek to emulate their actions. The violence of the crowd is a point of pride for some and also places Indonesian football fandom as comparable to those cultures which many fans seek to emulate. Violence is a typical part of ultra fandom (Guschwan 2015: 8). I went to the game with a sense of both trepidation and excitement. I trusted the person who had invited me to the game, and after some fifteen years of visiting Indonesia and living there on-and-off, I felt curiously detached from such a pivotal aspect of everyday Indonesian life. It was a relief to go to a game; and moreover, in the case of violence breaking out, I felt confident that I could look after myself. Although the Manahan Stadium is poorly maintained, a simple Olympic-style stadium with a gravelled athletics track surrounding the football pitch, it is surrounded by tall trees that provide welcome shade for the gathering fans before the mid-afternoon kick-off.
Fans sit down on mats or on curbs and benches drinking sweet iced tea, smoking cigarettes, selling or buying merchandise, and hooking up with their friends. The atmosphere is a mixture of calm, excitement and tension. After having taken the train from Yogyakarta (one hour away), I’m struck by the pleasantness of the stadium’s surrounds and that of the tree-lined streets of Solo. A picnic and relaxed atmosphere prevails outside of the stadium. Once inside and having assumed my position, I am struck again by a sense of order and calm. The stadium is “standing room only” (except for the VIP stand on the western side of the stadium), and I take up a position at the front. I’m struck by two things: the absence of an official soundscape, with advertisements, pop songs, or statements from security. And, secondly, the absence of advertising. The Pasoepati supporter groups have a relatively empty soundscape in which to perform their chants.
After having grown up attending Australian football games in Melbourne, where “match-day experiences” are increasingly micro-managed and overloaded with visual and audio advertisements, I regard this absence and silence as something to be valued and protected. In the weeks after attending the game, I share with my informants that despite all the administrative and managerial problems with “Indonesian football” (not to mention the violence between rival supporters), the atmosphere/ambience at games should be treasured. The crowd performance and sense of fan ownership and involvement is similar to what I have experienced while watching FC Union Berlin and FC Koln, only louder and more intense. While fans in Indonesia often aim to imitate European fandom, I have always countered to my informants that the domestic Indonesian crowds far outdo those in Europe, let alone Australia. The relatively slow pace of Divisi Utama football provides much space in which songs, chanting can emerge and be sustained without the spontaneous outbursts of cheering and shouting. An Australian rules football soundscape, in response to the faster pace of the game, is more intense and rapid and doesn’t allow for such intensely conducted chants.
Noise, sound, singing, chanting, whistling, booing, jeering, cheering, and clapping make up some of the primary elements of the football soundscape (Kytö 2011). Silence too is a vital weapon, creating a sense of football space. The soundscape changes markedly as a fan goes to a game. This relates to the changes in spaces that supporters, fans, and casual observers occupy as they make their way to a game. “Active fans” or “ultras” announce their arrival at a train station by immediately shouting the name of their club; their calls are then joined in with by other fans who have also disembarked at the same station. In other cases, fans congregate at the same train station, temporarily occupying and appropriating a shared public space and claiming it for their club and particular supporter group. Fan groups may then march towards their stadium, chanting, playing drums, and led by men wielding megaphones. The chanting, music and noise creates a carnivalesque atmosphere, strengthening the cohesion of the active fans. Going to a game and watching a game has generic qualities which facilitates a feeling of commonality between fans from different regions and nations, speaking different languages.
In contrast, casual fans, ordinary fans, “passive fans” – if the term “active fans” is to be accepted – make their way to stadiums in a less coordinated manner. They arrive incrementally, talk amongst themselves, mix with supporters of the opposing team and, perhaps, are more mixed in terms of age and gender, if one is to take the angry, volatile, aggressive male youth as the description of your average active supporters. Rather than creating a constant wall of sound indicating support for their club, the ordinary fan goes about his or her presence at a game in a casual manner, incorporating attendance of the game into his or her daily schedule. Rather than forming a band of supporters, they are fragmented, diverse, and with a range of emotional investment in attending the game. While not adding through concerted efforts to the pre-game soundscape, the casual fan may drift in and out of the act of creating the soundscape throughout the game. The active fans and casual fans stand or sit in their usual grandstands or spaces behind the goals. Waves of sound – clapping, cheering, imploring – emerge from unclear origins and spread throughout the stadium, gaining momentum and volume.
The anthem or hymn of a club is one of the key moments in a football soundscape at the stadium. The rendition of the anthem greets the players as they line up to face the officials, have their photographs taken, shake hands with one another and then disperse to their positions on the field. The anthem unites the home fans in song; they sing in unison to a pre-recorded, specifically-written or adopted anthem. Anthems are commonly sung as fans raise their scarves horizontally and swing them wildly about to accompany faster passages of music. The anthem, even if only recently adopted is uncontested and is imagined as timeless, reflecting also a belief in the permanence and stability of their club and its culture. Reflecting the broadly masculinist culture of football, anthems are largely folksy and stereotypically macho.
Matthew Guschwan describes the “anthem” as a “ritualized song which prepares the fans for the match” (2015: 6). That it is a “meta-communicative act” that serves to frame an event and to indicate how subsequent acts are to be interpreted. What follows the anthem is a “football” moment which allows fans to act in a manner according to the norms of football fandom. The anthem of Persis Solo club in central Javanese city of Solo is by a folk-punk group called The Working Class Symphony, and the title is “Satu Jiwa,” meaning “one soul.” The song was not written for Persis Solo’s supporter group, Pasoepati, but it was quickly adopted by them. And, in turn, the group have since recorded a film clip of the song in which the Pasoepati fan-group plays an important role. The same anthem is sung at the end of a match when Persis Solo wins; in the case of a loss or an unceremonious draw, a riot, or violence of varying degrees of seriousness, may breakout. The closing of the game with the anthem marks the end of the event as it takes place within the stadium.
A football game and the actions of the crowd are a specific kind of performance. Players and supporters express and shape their identities through their gestures, songs and mannerisms. Sport has a seemingly unquestionable purpose: to win, to defeat the other team or player, or – if one is already the best, the champion – to do so even more. Winners who achieve victory through doping enjoy immediate gratification and, possibly, later condemnation. If art, beauty and play happen on the sports or football field, they cannot compromise the sole purpose and aim of winning. There are few examples of players who are able to unite the twin identities of artist and footballer successfully and to actualize and be recognized for their aesthetic as well as match-winning capabilities. But these are players who play in at an elite level in elite clubs and in elite leagues; how does the idea of performance relate to the playing of the game elsewhere – say, in Indonesia? Do football and sport take on different meanings or ranges of meanings and expressions in the Indonesian or specifically Javanese context?
The origins of the chants are contentious: where do the chants of supporter groups come from? Each fan group claims their chants as their own and accuses other groups of stealing and poorly imitating their own chants. The chants heard in stadiums in Java reveal the traces and influences of elsewhere supporter cultures. Within stadiums, fans congregate in stands that articulate their appropriation of a supporter sub-category, and these categories are often identified with nations. The supporter groups use their chants as a vital means for asserting their presence as a separate and distinct cultural group from their rivals. These contestations have gotten stronger since Indonesia’s post-New Order era (1998 onwards). “Ultras” draw their main references from Italian supporter culture, while the casuals of Pasoepati and others, refer to an English approach to football support, mainly eschewing items of clothing that do not indicate any reference to team affiliation. The Brajamusti of Yogyakarta chant in one of their songs: “Brajamusti, we’re the original and from Yogyakarta, not from Italy.” Their chant is targeted towards their arch rivals in the nearby regions of Sleman and Solo who have assumed a seemingly more transparent adoption of ultra fandom borrowed from Italy or Argentina.
The chants and choreography are identified by being borrowed from Argentina, Poland, Turkey (Istanbul, in particular), Italy (of course), and England (see the interview with Andre Jaran and Fajar Junaedi, October 2014). The adoption of the Poznan by PSS Sleman fans and the Besiktas-style slow-build-up and “sshhh-ing” shows how a peripheral football culture can quickly be adopted by both mainstream and other peripheral football cultures. Although a high currency is placed on being original, supporter groups also require a well-established repertoire in order to maintain their vocal presence and enthusiasm throughout a 90-minute game. Some compromises are necessary: being “unoriginal” but “loud” is a tension that supporter groups, lead by their conductor, seek to reconcile. Being the first to adopt a chant amongst Indonesian supporter groups is often felt to be sufficiently original.