Sunday, 17 March 2013

There's more than one Blue Moon

Around 8,000 miles to the east of Manchester, a Blue Moon is also now rising over Indonesia, and at the center of that rise is group of young, City-supporting Indonesians who have established a network of branches across the country. They are Indonesia's very own Citizens.

In the West, little is known about Indonesia, the fourth most populated country in the world. Home to 240 million people, it contains the world’s largest Muslim population, spread across roughly 17,000 islands and speaking 300 different languages.

Much like City, Indonesia is a story waiting to be told. With a massive consumer base, Indonesia – like City - has for years been a sleeping giant. That potential is now being realised, with Indonesia already the largest economy in Southeast Asia. After navigating a stormy transition to democracy at the turn of the 21st century, the country is resurgent, just as City have risen from the depths to the summit of English football.

But it is Indonesia’s thirst for football that's of interest here. Many Indonesians don't support their local teams because of the quality of local football (there's not much to shout about) but perhaps more so because of the grim future prospects of the game here. It  suffers from corruption and chronic infighting. There's been two top tier leagues for the last few years because clubs can't agree on the terms of a single league. Money - and who gets what piece of which pie - has a big role to play, but on the pitch, the national team has suffered, with many players being banned from the national team as they are deemed to be playing in the wrong domestic league. It's chaotic, a situation that would cause serious social unrest if it ever happened in England.

Indonesia's thirst for the beautiful game is largely directed at England, and Indonesians look upon English teams and English fans with envy. When compared to their own national game, for Indonesians, the Premier League is a brilliant spectacle. The quality of football on show is there for everyone to see, but when that is combined with the blistering pace and the noise of the crowd transmitted into cafes across the country, the attraction proves irresistable, a lure that becomes even more potent when they find themselves part of something, wearing the shirt of their adopted team, chanting their heads off with friends in a cafe - the closest you can get to actually standing (or sitting) in the stands at the game itself.

For the more business minded, Indonesia is also a market waiting to be seized. Predictably, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal have already established fan bases here. United even have a glitzy Red Café in Jakarta.

But City’s grassroots presence is growing, and if the club hasn't already, it would do well to take note. Through their new website at (which is still going through some technical teething problems!) the network of Indonesian supporter branches across the country are linking up, pooling their support, and getting organized. The group has 31,000 followers on Twitter (@INA_Citizens) - a mere drop in a population of 240 million - but its a start.

And what the branches may lack in numbers, they more than make up for in their desire to support City. On match days, they turn up at the venue in full gear (I even saw a City shirt from the dark days of Ged Brannan and Jamie Pollock), they know 90 percent of the City songs, and when the singing does finally grind to a halt during half time and after the game, the Oasis tunes (Wonderwall, Roll with it, et al) are blasted out, followed by quiz questions, live bands and the ritual group photos. 

Some might call them glory hunters, but they will say they are adopted Mancunians, in love with their adopted club just as much as the next fan. 

What is certain is that they are evidence of City's progress over the last five years. Success in the modern game is not the same as success in the 1960/70s. Today, success comes with a price: Manchester no longer has the monopoly on where else the Blue Moon chooses to rise.