An afternoon with the Pasoepati crew
The Jakarta Post
Trees circled Manahan Stadium, the home field for Persis Solo, in Surakarta (Solo), Central Java.
The crowd was made up almost exclusively of young men, teenagers and boys. Anyone over 25 seemed old.
Women at the stadium were working as vendors rather than watching, although a few girls, dressed respectfully in veils, stood in their own section at the eastern end of the stadium.
The visitors, PSGC Ciamis from West Java, had virtually no supporters, save 20 or so people who had draped a banner over their corner of the stadium with the team's slogan, 'Balad Galuh'.
Ramdhon, a sociologist interested in soccer fans, says that the Pasoepati supporters' club of Persis Solo generally maintained good relations with those from other teams.
The game ' part of the playoffs to qualify for the Indonesian Soccer Association ' was a source of much tension, much of it from the visitors and the referee.
Players for Ciamis, up 2-1 briefly in the second half, were angry by two disallowed goals and an overturned penalty decision.
Even after the match was halted three times for player-vs.-referee showdowns and police-vs.-player standoffs, most of those on the pitch still shook hands at the game's end.
One man, Ajar, had his back to most of the action through the game. He's the dirigen, or cheer conductor, for the eastern tribune, where the Pasoepati B7 supporters of Persis Solo sit.
'Pasoepati B7' is emblazoned after the main entrance gate to the stand, which is popular among the team's campus supporters group.
The campus group is made of up largely of students who come from Sebelas Maret University, where Ramdhon teaches.
Ajar and his co-conductor stand atop a make-shift stand known as a steiger at the periphery of the track that circles the pitch. They share a megaphone, showing their slightly different and complementary roles atop the podium.
Just like the conductor of a symphony, Ajar is demonstrative, dictatorial and expresses a wide range of emotions in quick succession.
'These figures are very powerful. They are able to control thousands of people,' Ramdhon observes says. 'Today there are about 4,000 in this stand ' not even the police are able to control them. But these guys are.'
The game's final whistle was hardly greeted with a specific roar or cheer. Ajar greeted the players as they did a lap on the pitch to thank the fans. Only then was the game/performance finished.
After exiting, Ajar, who has worked as a dirigen for six years, was greeted by fans with reverence typically reserved for players. Some even asked to have photos taken with him.
'The regular conductor was absent, so someone had to replace him,' Ajar says of his start in the business. 'I started out at the southern stand. But, one time, I was asked to move to the eastern stand. People were wondering, why is it so quiet? And so, I went there to make it noisy.'
He takes pride in that Persis Solo could still field fans to support the team on the road when it was in danger of being sent down to a lower league. 'I don't use the words 'win' or 'lose'; I simply focus on building the support amongst us fans.'
'A journalist who goes by the name Jakarta Casuals on Twitter called us the most loyal fans in Southeast Asia,' Ajar says. 'Having 40,000 to 60,000 or 80,000 fans in a stadium when you are champions is normal. What is extraordinary is when you get 1,000 fans still willing to travel when you know that the team will be demoted.'
Every crowd is different, Ajar says. 'At games in Europe, the fans sit or stand in the same place for every game, more or less. They know what to sing and how to behave.'
But Manahan Stadium doesn't have a roof like its European peers, make the conductor's job more difficult, he adds. 'Here, the noise goes straight up into the air and dissipates very quickly. If we want to be heard, we have to be organised. If we had a roof at our stadium, we would be on a par with the Kop at Liverpool, no doubt.'
Ajar continues, 'Sometimes I have to use a strong voice. It doesn't mean that I'm angry. It is simply because I have to give more precise and direct instructions.'
The Persis Solo anthem, 'Satu Jiwa' (One Soul), by the local band Working Class Symphony, has been appropriated in the manner of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' has been by the Liverpool fans.
Andre states that since 'Satu Jiwa' was 'so representative of what fans experience through football', they asked the band for permission to use it as the club's and supporter's anthem.
Persis Solo and PSGC Ciamis are set to meet again soon for another game in Ciamis. Persis can be relieved to head there with a healthy lead of 5-2.
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