Southeast Asia Indonesia

Gameweek 25 Ends in Farce

Steven Danis

Football Tribe Indonesia


Gameweek 25 of the 2019 Liga 1 ended in a complete farce as the match between Persebaya Surabaya and PS Sleman ended in a riot that saw Persebaya’s fanatical supporters, the Bonek, damaging their beloved Gelora Bung Tomo Stadium and setting it on fire last Tuesday. The match itself ended in a 3-2 win for PSS, which meant Persebaya had failed to win any of their last 6 matches.

Persebaya head coach Wolfgang Pikal came into intense scrutiny following this winless run, which became more intense after the defeat. The Vienna-born coach was Persebaya’s emergency choice, with Bajul Ijo‘s previous head coach appointment, Alfred Riedl, deciding to step down before he even started due to health reasons.

PSS flew out of the blocks once the referee blew for kick-off and took the lead in the 16th minute through Jefri Kurniawan, however, Persebaya were quick to react with an equalizer from David da Silva less than fifteen minutes later. PSS were unfettered though and answered with two goals from Haris Tuharea and Yevhen Bokhashvili five minutes before half-time. With their beloved team down 1-3 in half-time, the incensed Bonek decided to leave their Green Nord stand on the north side of the stadium.

The remaining Bonek placed banners filled with critiques towards Wolfgang and the team in the empty stand during the second half, while others lit up flares on the other stand as Persebaya clawed one back through Diogo Campos in the 76th minute. That goal amounted to nothing though as PSS held on for the three points. Once the referee blew for full-time, the enraged Bonek invaded the pitch, demanding to see the players and coaches to ask them about their poor performance.

With the players being directed to the changing rooms, the Bonek directed their wrath to the stadium’s adboards and the goalposts on the north side of the stadium. The chaos soon spread wildly towards the stadium’s VIP section, as reported by Jawa Pos, the biggest media company in Surabaya who once were the sponsors of Persebaya. It was a horrific and farcical night at the Gelora Bung Tomo, a stadium that was chosen as one of the 10 stadiums for the upcoming 2021 U-20 FIFA World Cup.

A similar situation happened in South Jakarta, where PSM Makassar took on hosts Bhayangkara FC at the PTIK Stadium. PSM fans threw bottles into the pitch during the first half that was quickly dealt with by the stadium’s policemen. The fans directed their rage and disappointment at PSM’s head coach, Darije Kalezić, who they felt had unable to improve PSM’s form and fortunes ever since their 2018/19 Piala Indonesia victory.

PSM fought to the very end during the match though and despite the narrow 3-2 defeat to Bhayangkara, results elsewhere meant that Juku Eja remained 9th on the table. Meanwhile, a Greg Nwokolo strike in the 41st minute earned Madura United a 1-0 win over freefalling TIRA-Persikabo at the Gelora Madura Ratu Pamelingan Stadium in Pamekawsan.

How Will the Chaotic Night Affect Surabaya?

East Java well known as the heart of Indonesian football. This season there are three clubs from the mainland of East Java plus one represented Madura Island. There’s Persebaya Surabaya, Persela Lamongan, Arema FC, and Madura United. Among others, Persebaya and Arema well known as the biggest and have fanatics supporters who likes to clash every season.

East Java is well known as the heartland of Indonesian football, with numerous historic clubs that have graced the Indonesian top-flight over the years. This season alone East Java has 4 representatives in the Liga 1, three representing the mainland and one representing Madura Island – Persebaya Surabaya, Persela Lamongan, Arema FC of Malang, and Madura United. Clashes between Persebaya and Arema are known as the East Java Derby, with the animosity between Persebaya’s Bonek and Arema’s Aremania being well known and documented. The match represented the battle between two of East Java’s largest cities and the bragging rights of being the pride of the province. Persebaya also had smaller rivalries with close neighbors Persela Lamongan and Madura United, with clashes with the latter known as the Derby Suramadu, referring to the portmanteau of the two clubs’ origins – Sura from Surabaya, and Madu from Madura, which is also the name of the bridge that links Madura with the mainland.

The name Bonek itself came from the term bondho nekat, or performing an action without any fear or hesitation in one’s mind. They are one of Indonesia’s biggest supporters group, making their presence known in Persebaya matches be it home or away. They often come into games without any preparations at all, hitchhiking any mode of transport from city to city, s0metimes performing acts of vandalism whenever they stop somewhere on their way to matches.

The farcical night of  October 29th has cost Persebaya a lot. Wolfgang Pikal handed his resignation straight after the match, leaving Persebaya scrambling for a new head coach. The match between Persebaya and PSM in Gameweek 26 is also postponed, being unable to be held in Surabaya due to the damages to the stadium, with rumors that the match will be held at Persiba Balikpapan’s Batakan Stadium in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan on November 2nd, with the match itself being held without any spectators from both teams.

But the biggest loss for Persebaya is their own stadium, the Gelora Bung Tomo, which is left damaged from the Bonek’s actions. The governor of East Java, Khofifah Indar Parawangsa, gave an ultimatum to the Bonek. She voiced her pity over the fact that the Gelora Bung Tomo needed major renovations after the chaos, as well as the fact that the PSSI, Indonesia’s football federation, will most likely fine Persebaya heavily for the incident. PSSI themselves are considering the status of the Gelora Bung Tomo as one of the 10 stadiums for the 2021 U-20 FIFA World Cup, with rumors that the Balikpapan city government are considering nominating their Batakan Stadium as one of the event’s host stadiums.