Punishing Brutal Supporters
Heavy punishment must be meted out to soccer clubs with brutal supporters. Never again should there be dead victims.
In the matter of soccer competitions, it would not be amiss to say Indonesia is no different to a donkey that continues to trip over time and again. The death of a Persija Jakarta supporter, Haringga Sirla, at the hands of supporters of the Persib Bandung on Sunday two weeks ago is ample evidence of the lousy security and bad management of the competition.
Soccer competitions in Indonesia are conducted emulating modern league games. The name of the Liga 1, the highest soccer competition in the land—followed among others by Persija and Persib—is very similar to that of France: the Ligue 1. This League is managed by Liga Indonesia Baru, established last year, replacing Liga who for years managed the competitions.
Unfortunately, the operators did not at the same time emulate management of modern league competitions. Match schedules, for example, many times clash with national team matches, whose players are also picked from the clubs. The worst part of the management can be observed in the lax security during competitions, particularly during important matches such as Persija versus Persib, that caused Haringga’s death.
Haringga, 23, was mobbed by Persib supporters a few hours before the match at the Bandung Lautan Api Stadium compound. No security guard stopped the barbaric act. Matches between the two clubs always bring together fanatic supporters, and several times these have resulted in clashes ending in deaths. In the last six years, clashes between supporters of the two clubs have taken the lives of seven people, including Haringga’s.
League competitions in various countries always have important matches that bring forth fanatic supporters. The organizers always increase security measures during such events. In short, security is regarded a very serious matter. Clubs can ban people for life from entering the stadium, if proven to have committed violence—including verbal violence, such as making racist remarks.
If such management were in place, the loss of seven lives during soccer matches could never happen. Heavy punishment should be meted out to the club and its supporters so that acts of violence will not be repeated over and over. A decision by the head national soccer organization, the All-Indonesia Soccer Association (PSSI), to stop the Liga 1 should be levelled up with a thorough evaluation of the competition.
The club, too, should not be left off the hook. The 2018 PSSI Code of Discipline states that both hosting clubs and visiting clubs are responsible for the behaviour of its supporters. Punishment in the form of holding matches with no audience for clubs whose supporters took the life of another supporter is not good enough. PSSI should slap on a harsher punishment, including degrading or banning the club from participating in any competition for a specific time period.
PSSI can take the example of the European Union Football Association (UEFA) which banned English clubs from competing in Europe for five years, after the deaths of 39 people in the Champions Cup competitions—now the Champions League—between Liverpool and Juventus at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium, on May 29, 1985. The loss of lives during soccer matches are a serious issue that must be handled with dire punishment.
The tragedy that befell Haringga should be the momentum for supporter groups to improve their behavior. It is high time supporters realize the violence they enact not only goes against the very grain of sportsmanship, it also puts the clubs they support so fervently at a disadvantage. This can be begun with small steps, say, not shouting derision at a player from the opposing when being carried off field when sustaining an injury.
Soccer should provide joy and entertainment, not be a field of massacre between supporters.