Earlier this month, 16 buses full of hundreds of “Jakmania” – the nickname for fanatical supporters of Persija, Jakarta’s leading football club – were travelling in a convoy near the town of Palimanan in West Java.
With their trademark orange uniforms and flags, the fans (both official and unofficial members of Jakmania) had just finished cheering on their team against arch-rivals Persib Bandung – a club based in the city three hours from the Indonesian capital.
The match, which ended in an uncontroversial 0–0 draw, was supposed to have been held in Persija’s home ground, the majestic Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Central Jakarta. But a riot during Persija’s previous home match – which saw four policemen injured, including one who was left in a coma for several days – caused police to move it to a neutral venue more than 500 kilometres away, and to ban all Persib supporters, known as Vikings, from attending.
Relations between Jakmania and Vikings were particularly tense because a month earlier, several Jakmania had attacked some rival fans on the outskirts of Jakarta. A 17-year-old Persib supporter, Muhammad Rovi Arrahman, was beaten to death.
Despite the ban on Vikings’ attendance at last November’s game, trouble was again in the air. “We were told to be careful, because some Vikings had been spotted near Palimanan,” recalls Donal Aldiyansah, the acting chairman of Jakmania.
He ordered the bus convoy to stop at a rest area until police could sort out their security. When they finally continued their trip back to…
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