Saturday, 5 May 2012

Jakarta’s responsible ‘Mancunians’

Manchester, la, la, la! Manchester, la, la, la!

The famous Mancunian chant came not from the night of Manchester, but from the early morning of Jakarta, Indonesia.

It came not only from the throng of City fans, but also from an equally large group of United fans, both of whom had gathered in an outdoor café in the centre of the capital to watch what was billed as one of the biggest derbies ever.

The tension that reverberated throughout this match was there for all to see and feel. It rained down from the stands, onto the pitch and into our café through the big TV screen that was propped up by a tree.

Watching the game at 2:00 am in the morning was surreal enough, never mind that Jakarta’s streets and main thoroughfares, normally seething with the city’s 11 million vehicles, were eerily empty as we made our way to the café unimpeded. 

The stress normally felt by navigating your way through the traffic was gone, only to be replaced by something much worse, a feeling that many City fans know all too well - that very particular mix of both the dread and the hope of what is about to materialize as Derby day approaches. Times that by a thousand for this particular encounter, and then some.

We arrived at the venue and a black grill gate, swung open, revealed a makeshift and uneven car park – much akin to that outside the stadium formally known as Eastlands a couple of years ago - with rows of cars, vans and motorbikes piled in. On the left hand side of the enclosure was the café; big screen in the corner, marquee over the top to protect the electronics from an unexpected monsoon, red shirts on one side, blue shirts on the other. City vs United - in Jakarta.

Once inside the café, I was amazed at the pre-game build up. The chanting started, and for the large part it was spot on – and not a foreigner in sight apart from yours truly. The City fans sang “Hark though hear” and the United fans came back with “Glory, glory Man United”. “City till I die” was met with “We love United, we do!”

At half time, being the only bule (white man) in the crowd, I was asked if I wanted to join the City supporters club in Jakarta. For right of entry, I had to give the names of three City managers before Roberto Mancini. A Sven-Goran Eriksson, a Stuart Pearce and a Joe Royle later, and I'd been blooded, a membership card being temporarily given to me to confirm my membership (a ritual performed by all of Jakarta’s 500 City supporters club members, with the card was immediately given back to the organizer because there was only one in existence!).

With the Blue half of the crowd a little giddy given their team’s lead, the organizers of the event reminded everyone to be respectful of the opposing side’s fans. The request was observed almost perfectly, with nothing boiling over as the game’s tension grew higher and higher – a far cry from the antics of Mancini and Ferguson on the touchline of the Etihad.

I was mightly impressed with the restraint shown by both sets of supporters – how City fans didn’t bait their United counterparts I don’t know, and likewise how United fans didn’t let the frustration at their team’s performance boil over is beyond me.

It is a far cry from many drinking establishments in England, where for some the rivalry is too much, the prize too big, to resist mocking the opponent and therefore getting into a skirmish.

Indonesians love football, and don’t get me wrong - they are no strangers to football hooliganism. The Jakmania, which is the 100,000 strong supporters club of one of Jakarta’s teams Persija Jakarta – boasts unhealthy rivalries with Viking (supporters club attached to Persib Bandung – based in a city about three hours drive away) and Bonek (supporters club attached to Persebaya – based about 500 miles east of Jakarta).

However, there was something admirable about the way these Blue and Red Indonesians were managing supporter relations. With not a Munich chant in sight, I suddenly felt further than ever away from the hatred and the acidic atmosphere of Mary D’s.


  1. Anonymous5/5/12 03:15

    Great stuff!

  2. Anonymous5/5/12 03:19

    Brilliant, it sounds it was better to watch it there than at the Etihad

  3. Anonymous5/5/12 07:02

    Nothing beats being at the Etihad, however I suppose watching it in the tropics is a good second choice !!!

  4. Anonymous5/5/12 08:08

    Enjoyed your narrative, what a gr8 experience