Indonesian Ultras

About last night.

12 goals. 2 choreos. 5 pyro shows. 3 fights. 1 pitch invasion.

Sriwijaya FC hosted Persegres Gresik United at the Stadion Bumi Sriwijaya while their home at the Stadion Gelora Sriwijaya is being renovated for the 2018 Asian games. A complete massacre. Persegres who had already been relegated before kick-off were beaten 10-2. But the high goal count was by no means the highlight of the match.

Palembang, the city in which Sriwijaya FC is based, gets little visitors. The only white man at the game ended up getting a lot of unwanted attention; the police were openly taking photos of me from afar and the Capo of the block I was in saw me and shouted something about bule to the crowd, at which point heads whipped round and the fans applauded. I’m not a fucking celebrity boys, watch the fucking game.

Fans Palembang

Fans Sriwijaya

At half time a fight broke out to our right. At Sriwijaya FC, fans identify with their fan groups by wearing different colours. To our right, everyone was in black. Opposite, they were in green. I was among the yellows. Hordes of boys in black battled with the police, who struggled to contain the incoming fans in the block as they fought to get toward the pitch. They eventually succeeded with several fans beaten with sticks and truncheons, I saw no arrests.

Then the yellow block and the green block performed simultaneous choreos. The gold and black sheets were distributed left and right of the centre of our block while a giant banner was unfurled and the smoke bombs let rip. I indeed broke the golden rule of not-taking-a-photograph-inside-a-choreo, but only after I saw scores of kids doing the same. I guess Indonesians are a little more relaxed about that rule. Smoke bombs of varying colours were passed around, creating a great display. The choreo opposite was similar; green and yellow sheets in two rows while smoke curled around them.

Indonesian fans pyro

Pyro Indonesian

The atmosphere continued to climb throughout the second half, the usual drumming, swaying and singing not helped by poor acoustics but still impressive. As the full time got closer, fans continued to try and score against the police. In our sector, a selection of boys to the far left came against the feds the other side of the barrier, again beaten down. The fencing itself came under attack and was damaged all around the ground, the stadium looked a mess as we left. As full time came, flares, bangers and smoke bombs sang a chorus of defiance across all 3 tribunes. It was great to see.

The green and black fan groups entered the pitch at full time. The exit of our block, located in the centre of the curve, became the scene of the final fight. Fans against fans, Yellows against Yellows, the brawl crawled up the curve to the top row, as presumably one set of fans tried to escape the other. The effect was to send the young boys and girls dashing left and right for cover, like a hool Moses parting the Yellow Sea. 12 year old boys wearing t-shirts sporting the word “hooligan” with sheer terror in their eyes sprinted past. I didn’t take the piss; I tried to reassure them. You have to understand, the fans at Indonesian games are young and mostly in their teens. This makes them volatile, hormonal and rash, but many are actually very slight.

Sriwijaya fans

Palembang fans

This brawl quickly found a new target. The police continued to try and contain aggressive fans looking for a tear-up in the block while cuffing fans that were already running around the pitch. But arrests were not made; I saw officers simply thumping fans once and throwing them in the direction of the fencing, a clear instruction to get back where they belong. What conclusions about Indonesian Football Culture can we draw from this episode?

The punishments for violence and pyrotechnic use are low here. It can only be the case. Many youths held flares and smoke bombs without shielding their faces, and they did not respond negatively to other fans taking photographs while they were performing the pyro show. But the result is a fan culture that is exceptional; compelling, punchy and vibrant. By far one of the best atmospheres that FBTG has seen recently.

Sriwijaya fc

Longer post to follow.


12 thoughts on “Indonesian Ultras

    1. Kind of. Fans here are quite politicised. In a recent conversation with a fan, I was explained that different fan groups of the same team have links to different political parties. So in theory, a fan group linked to a certain political party could have a better relationship with politically-aligned fan groups of rival teams than with other fan groups of their own team. Think of Islamist Mancs & Scousers coming together against Marxist Scousers, something like that. Of course these groups of hostile young men can become very useful for political parties when it comes to election time…. but a post about that coming in a few weeks. At this match though, it was people in the same fan group/ tribune fighting first against the police and then for some reason against each other. It wasn’t a case of “green vs yellow” yesterday, though I dare say that sometimes happens.


  1. Crikey, this is one heck of a complicated situation haha. Glad you came out alright, though I can imagine if some decided to fight you, you’d have had A LOT of supporters on your side 😉

    The yellow on yellow is interesting (you covered in the comments already). This would be fun to see as an animation haha

    Liked by 1 person

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