Why Do Indonesian Football Clubs Have Such Similar Names?

This question first popped up when your trusted FBTG crew began to research Indonesian Football. It was phenomenally difficult as a newbie to the scene to browse through social media sites dedicated to Indonesian Football and tell the clubs apart. After having had our feet on the ground, we realised that an explanation behind this phenomenon could make an enjoyable short post.

The answer is remarkably simple.

Let’s take this moment to turn that question around 180 degrees. I remember a German fan I met on an away day asking me why so many English clubs have similar suffixes. After protesting, it took me a few seconds to acknowledge how right he was, the smart ass Gerry. City, Rangers, Wanderers, Town, United, Albion, Athletic. The only ones that stick out as being idiosyncratic enough for the arbitrary onlooker to find interesting are Villa, Wednesday, Argyle, Stanley, Alexandra and Palace (not an exhaustive list but enough to put our point across- don’t you fucking dare say that “Tigers” belongs on that list). The German sure had a point.

But putting aside the astonishing lack of originality seen in the playing names of English Football clubs, Indonesian Football club names are even more similar to one another. To name a few: PSS Sleman, PSIM, PSMS Medan, PSIS Semarang, Persegres, Persija, Persela, Persib, Persiba, Persibat, Persebaya, Persipura, Perseru, Persis. We could go on but the P, R, S and E keys on my keyboard are beginning to take some strain. Yes, there are exceptions, such as Bali United, Arema and Sriwijaya. But many are frightfully similar. How has this happened?

Persija Curva Nord

In Surabaya I got in touch with members of Bonek, the umbrella name for Persebaya Surabaya’s infamous fanatics. These fans told me the origins of the moniker “Bonek” which is an abbreviation of “Bondo dan Nekat”, which I translate to something like “Penniless and Fearless”. I shared this with a friend in Malaysia who spoke the Bahasa language of Indonesia (which is related to Malay) who laughed and said “Indonesians love abbreviations”.

And when you start to peel apart some of those homogenous Indonesian Football club names, you quickly see that so many are simply abbreviations. “Perseb” and “Persib” are amalgamations of “Persatuan Sepakbola Indonesia”, quite literally “Indonesian Union Football”. The full name of Indonesian Football clubs is quite often “Persatuan Sepakbola Indonesia” with the city name as a suffix, which also subsequently contributes to the abbreviated name. Persatuan Sepakbola Indonesia Jakarta became “Persija”. Persatuan Sepakbola Indonesia Surabaya became “Persebaya”. Persatuan Sepakbola Indonesia Gresik became “Persegres”. Persaturan Sepakbola Indonesia Serui became “Perseru”.

Palembang fans

The lesson to be learnt is to identify Indonesian Football clubs by the final letters of their names as these invariably refer to the cities themselves. The Indonesian obsession with abbreviations may result in similar sounding Football club names, but the far stronger Indonesian obsession with Football itself means that Football club names will always contain a reference to the city itself that acts as the defining factor within the name. God forbid your club will ever share a name with another….

…. excluding the identical prefix of Persiba Balikpapan and Persiba Bantul. But you didn’t need me to remind of those chestnuts, did you?


7 thoughts on “Why Do Indonesian Football Clubs Have Such Similar Names?

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