An anthropology of Lapangan Minggiran, Yogyakarta
In the mornings, I walk to Lapangan Minggiran: about one kilometer from my house. To get there, I walk through the small yard of a kampung, in which a few children play and where the elders burn rubbish. A middle-aged woman has a stall on the corner and she sells about seven simple dishes: boiled vegetables, noodles, tempe. When I moved here, I greeted her as I walked past; she replied with a blank stare. I learned not to say hello to her. There is a mosque on the corner and sometimes there is live-streaming from Mecca. A clock with red digits gives the time of Mecca. A man in his late 20s is fixing his Honda Civic; it is dark blue and produces a lot of smoke. His hair is dyed a little blonde. Sometimes he makes portable stalls for selling food; sometimes he drives a motorised-becak. These vehicles have recently become the target for police as being a source of traffic problems. When the members of the kampung burn the rubbish it spreads throughout the interiors of the surrounding houses. No problem. Rubbish is burnt so that it is ‘annihilated’ – ‘dimusnahkan’. The earth of this yard is hard and few trees grow. There no grass. Passing through this yard is a short cut between Jl.Tirtodipuran and Jl.Ngadinegaran. Mostly, it is used by those who ride scooters; very few walk. Most scooter-riders are alone; most ride slowly. The kampung has a constant hum of these scooter engines. Perhaps ten years ago, it was virtually silent. The call-to-prayer is conveyed from the mosque, regardless of blackouts. Friday sermons, aren’t however, broadcast from the same speakers, as is the practice elsewhere.
I cross Jl.Panjaitan: it has trees and a dedicated footpath. The footpath is rarely used by pedestrians. Most commonly it is a commercial place used by sellers of fried foods and sweets. The footpath is also a parking place for scooters and motorbikes. Sometimes there is a carpark in front of a shop, but, of the time it is the footpath that becomes the motorcycle-park by default. The parking attendants shuffle from one motorbike to the next, taking Rp.1,000 at a time. Sometimes they arrange the motorcycles neatly; often times they smoke and joke with one another. This is not a walking town. Walking makes one hot and vulnerable. It often rains and pedestrians caught out on the street at such unfortunate moments are told that it is raining: because the sensation of being soaked to the skin is often not real enough. Jl.Panjaitan could be pleasant: but, there are enough heavily polluting buses to rule out the possibility. Nonetheless, there are juice stalls and es oyen stalls that offer cool drinks beneath the shade of the plentiful trees. Some time ago, some urban activists created a green-map of Yogyakarta: perhaps this map was used by the city’s planners as a guidebook to work out where the next hotel would be constructed or where the next ruko (house/shop) would be built. Yogyakarta, is a city almost clean of green, public space. The soccer field, Lapangan Minggiran – dusty throughout the dry season, is one space that approaches being a ‘green public space’.
On most mornings, I visit Sofyan’s warung: a small canvas covered stall with more or less four benches. I was introduced to this bench by Hans – a man I met in Leiden, The Netherlands, and who spends six months of the year in Indonesia: half in Bali, the other half in Yogyakarta. Hans had introduced me to Sofyan because I had told him of my research on soccer. Sofyan, is from Aceh, but has spent his recent years travelling throughout Indonesia as a professional player. He retired thanks to an injury. He retired before players started to get paid good money. But, he still says that he was paid well. After finishing his career, he opened a sports shop which went bankrupt. And then he opened his warung. A few times after our first meeting, he asked me for Rp.20million – so that he could open up a new shop. I told him I didn’t have that sort of money to give to someone – let alone someone I had just met. Nonetheless, I kept coming back and he didn’t hold it against me. He had regular customers who I got to know. They were ex-players, too, but our conversations were more rambling, coffee-shop conversations rather than marginal fieldwork. I met Isnanto, a former PSIM player who graduated with a diploma in accounting from UGM (but who had dropped out of law school). I met Erry, who also came from Aceh, had tasted fleeting success and fame as a goalkeeper, but whose injury also forced him into early retirement and short-term jobs as a goalkeeping coach. Over the weeks, I also met other past-players and acquaintances. One morning, the regional chess-champion dropped by for a cup of tea. He had been walking laps of the pitch’s periphery. And then there is the man who says, ‘my main hobby is looking after my grandchildren; it is the thing I like the most.’
I would also come to Lapangan Minggiran to use the horizontal bars so that I could do my chin-ups and core-exercises. On some occasions, teenagers would have just finished using them, or, would be hanging about, a little sweaty, looking as if they were about to use them. On many mornings, primary school children would be running around in front of the set of three bars: they would be playing kasti, a Javanese game, similar to baseball, or would be practicing badminton in a very casual manner. I would see their coach, sitting in his red tracksuit pants, white polo shirt with a whistle around his neck setting some ten or so meters away, looking completely disinterested. The children would greet me and I would tell them to concentrate on practicing their sport and adding that it was no wonder the Philippines could beat Indonesia 4-0 in soccer. Such a comment seemed to spur them back into action and take their attention away from shouting ‘bule’, ‘bule’, ‘hey mister’, ‘bule’, ‘londo’. One morning, though, I got talking with a young man who had been doing yoga-like poses on the other side of the field. He said that he stood on his head and counted to 100. Earlier, I had seen him doing a set of core exercises. It turns out he worked as kitchen hand in the afternoons in one of the newly built hotels. He came to Lapangan Minggiran to do his strength work. His main sport was pencak silat.
On my way back home, I pass along Jl.Panjaitan again which is becoming busier and busier. The woman selling soup on the footpath near the intersection with Jl.Suryodiningratan greets me with a smile. She has only staked a recent claim to her part of the footpath, but, she has already attracted a regular set of customers. A couple of men are pulling down advertisements that have been erected illegally: ‘they don’t have the correct stickers’, the man says. One of the signs they pulled down the previous day was made by PSIM fans, making fun of the state of PSS Sleman and their BCS fans. Closer to home, an elderly man stops me to tell me about his children who have grown up and are now working as tailors. He says that he was one of the workmen who built the ‘welcome’ statue in Jakarta and how he engraved his initials at the bottom of the statue. He says that this is proof of his ‘artistic soul’ and that he has a close connection to the life of the nation’s capital. He is well into his 60s, slim and cheerful. He says his bit and then we both get back to our business, or, rather, non-business. The yard is empty and chickens with red skin run about. Lapangan Minggirin must be emptying now; the school kids enter the class rooms, those older head off to university, work or elsewhere. Sofyan’s warung begins to dawdle.