When I was in primary school, I already had a strong wish to be a journalist. So, I would retype articles from the newspaper: and most of the articles I typed were about sport. Most of the articles were about football, but, of course there were many articles about badminton [that sport at which Indonesia is most successful at]. In the house in which I grew up in, during the 1960s, there was no television, and so, the football that I enjoyed, was ‘imagined football’.
I lived in Yogyakarta (Central Java), and when I visited my grandparents in Jakarta, I would read the Merdeka (Free!) newspaper, which had the best coverage of football news at the time with their large photos and long articles. From the articles and photographs I was able to re-create the reality of how Soetjipto Soentoro, Iswadi Idris, Jacob Sihasale and Abdul Kadir were able to tear about the defence of any team in Asia between 1968-72 in the King’s Cup, Merdeka (Free!) Cup, and even the Anniversary Cup tournaments. In the 1972 Sukan Party in Singapore, the two Indonesian national teams, PSSI A and PSSI B were equal champions.
Up until then, I had only an approximate knowledge of the power of football. Also in my games of pretending to be a journalist, I would also buy copies of second-hand Dutch football magazines, such as 1-0, which I could buy from the Dutch Culture Institute. I would cut out the photographs and then re-arrange them in my own text which had a red and black ribbon. Of course, I would have to manually adjust my typing so that there wouldn’t be any cross-over with the photographs. After all, we hadn’t even uttered the word ‘computer’ at the time.
Fortunately, by 1970, my family had a black and white television. I was in Grade 6 at Primary School and I watched the final of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico between Brazil and Italy in the middle of the night all by myself. ‘Pele’ was the name I remembered most strongly. And, out of the four goals that Brazil put into the back of the Italian net, it was only the last goal from Carlos Alberto, delivered to him from Pele, that I can still remember to this day. Alberto was a defender who suddenly appeared to score a goal as everyone was only paying attention to Pele. I examined this event in Scientific Soccer in the Seventies by Roger MacDonald and Eric Batty (1971) and also in Brian Glanville’s book, The Story of the World Cup (1993). They both regarded it as a spectacular goal. Eric Cantona also spoke of the goal in his book, Cantona, My Story (1993). Cantona, the former French captain of Manchester United, described Pele’s pass to Carlos Alberto as being as beautiful as the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud (‘cords from steeple to steeple and garlands from window to window’). According to Cantona, both are human manifestations that express a moving beauty which give us the feeling of timelessness.
From such an example, we can follow the process of how football appears as a game through the media of television (which rely on replays, and slow-motion) which then reappear in analyses in their historical context of football techniques and strategies. And, in the end, a text that can be compared with poetry. As such, I experience(d) football not only as something superficial, but also its internal qualities as an expression of culture. In my further readings, I was surprised by the findings of researchers who were able to say why football in Brazil is ‘Brazilian football’ (Alex Bellos, Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life, 2002) and why football in The Netherlands could become ‘Dutch football’ (Simon Kuper, Football Against the Enemy, 1994). As a game and sport, football can be measured by criteria that is the same anywhere, but as a ‘cultural representation’ football is unique everywhere and as such it is possible to regard it as an individual expression of its supporters. So, one needn’t be a Brazilian to support the Brazilian national team. One just needs to be able to enjoy the bossa nova or the samba. And this applies for other contexts.
Mediate My Football
For me, it is no less interesting to explore football beyond the surface of tactics and strategies on the field of play. In fact, I find it much more interesting to explore it as a form of cultural expression. I have come to this conclusion after having barely ever watched a game live at a stadium. I have probably only ever watched two games: both were at the Kridosono Stadium in Yogyakarta. I was standing behind others at the edge of the pitch. All I can remember is how sore my neck became from trying to follow the movement of the ball.
The media – radio, newspapers, magazines, TV [etc] – has helped us a lot to multiply the meanings of football so that it is not just a ‘sports event’. It covers, politics, economics, media technology, and shows us the interests which are invested in it. Football through the media has allowed for many people to play with football, without ever have to kick a ball.
*Unable to find the original date of publication. Translated by Andy Fuller
*Feature photograph of ‘New Inter’ cigarettes from the archives of Seno Gumira Ajidarma. Photo of Kridosono Stadium, 2013, Andy Fuller. Others obtained via ‘the Internet’.