Solo and Yogyakarta are two central Javanese cities separated only by some 60km. The fans of the two main teams, those of PSIM in Yogyakarta and Persis Solo in Solo, fight when they pass through each others cities. In the Divisi Utama season of 2013-14, arrangements were made so that the teams played in different zones and thus would avoid direct conflict. But, conflicts would of course happen when the Pasoepati or Brajamusti passed through Yogya or Solo on their way to other games. So much for friendly rivalry. Even if it is difficult for the fans to be in the opposing city, players make the switch between clubs. One such former player is Erry Abdullah, from Aceh. He played with both PSIM and Persis Solo. A summary of his career can be found (in Indonesian) in Dimaz Maulana’s article, Cerita Erry Abdullah: Mataram Putra, PSIM dan Timnas U-16. In December 2014, I took a short day trip with Erry to Solo.
On the verandah at Stasiun Solo Balapan, a man approached Mas Erry and said, ‘I remember you. You played well. You were a good keeper.’ And then, he took a few steps back and repeated the same comments, this time in my direction. ‘He was a good player. He was a good keeper. I remember watching him playing for Persis Solo, at Manahan Stadium.’ And then, ‘I’ve always watched soccer. I’ve watched it since I was a child. Sriwedari Stadium? That was built even before I was born.’ And then, with a toothless smile; the man had run out of conversation; he had said his bit. He had acknowledged Erry’s presence back in Solo. He returned to waiting by his becak. Still smiling.
We had only just arrived, and even though Erry had only played two seasons for Persis Solo – in 2003 and in 2005; he had already been noticed and greeted. Later, at a juice stall in front of Sriwedari Stadium, we bumped into a journalist friend of Aldi’s. Erry was introduced as being the Persis Solo keeper from 2003: ‘oh Mas Erry, ya?’ The journalist asked a few questions; Erry responded politely, now and then being a little more expansive. Erry tells me of his long hair and how he tied it backwards; he was known for his eccentricity. He was macho and demonstrative; his teammates, at least from the team photographs, appear less imposing and of smaller statue. Erry, to this day, carries his steely and fearless gaze. Perhaps there is a degree of bravado and performance; no doubt such a gaze is necessary at the moment an opposition player lines up for a penalty, set piece or is one-on-one.
‘You can’t go in. Normally, you have to bring a letter of recommendation. Those are the rules.’ A young man with a thin mustache denied us entry to the stadium.The door to the stadium was unguarded, but, he had come out to tell us we couldn’t go in. Aldi, one of the leaders of the Pasoepati Campus supporter group took a few steps back, told Erry to wait and started making a phone call. Erry said, ‘it’s not like this at Mandala Krida Stadium in Yogyakarta. Anyone can use it. Of course, you need permission to use the pitch if you want to play a game of soccer, but, if you want to just visit, anyone is welcome.’ Aldi returned a moment later, he now had Anwar Sanusi on the phone – one of the seniors of Pasoepati.
From the inside of the office, Aldi could be seen signing some kind of registration book. A moment later we entered with little ado. Aldi simply said, ‘it’s like that.’ Erry wasn’t exactly politically correct: ‘she doesn’t understand soccer.’ It might have been the phone call to Anwar Sanusi that got us in, or, it might have been the sudden outbreak of common sense. The stadium was empty except for a handful of workers working beneath the historic stand. The middle of a cloudless day is hardly the best time to be wondering slowly around a soccer pitch. There was no breeze and it was easily north of 35 degrees (celsius).
On the Eastern Wing of Sriwedari Stadium, Aldi recounted the current state of the Joko-Riyanto case – a supporter killed in unclear circumstances in October 2014 at the conclusion of a match. ‘He was killed. There is little doubt about that. But, we are not going to take the matter to court; we are not going to take it any further.’ Indeed, there has been no media coverage to suggest that there is somehow conflicting views on the death of Riyanto. For the police and the media it is clear: Riyanto was stabbed in a fight between spectators. For the Pasoepati, it is clear: Riyanto was shot by police. ‘I heard the shots. Other members of the crowd were running onto the pitch – it was the Casuals who started chasing the referee first – but, we B7, were on the pitch but retreated. The police were already firing tear gas.’
The chaos of the rioting at the end of the game could easily have allowed for live shots to be fired amongst rounds of tear gas. Aldi’s account need not be taken at face value; but, the lack of veracity doesn’t deny the possibility of Riyanto’s possible or probable death by bullet wound. In the aftermath, a photo quickly was circulated on social media showing a bullet wound in Riyanto’s chest. Aldi states that Riyanto’s son, who is in senior highschool, has been guaranteed a position in the police force upon his finishing of school. Being a policeman provides a steady income and also the opportunity to make money in many unofficial ways. Despite the deep disrespect police are often held – i.e. for being lazy and corrupt – the job remains prestigious and enticing for many. These are the stories that are being circulated. The case is closed.
Sriwedari Stadium is an integral part of Indonesia’s sportscape and the soccerscape of Solo – a city formerly known as Surakarta. The Stadium was built in 1932-33 on the initiative of the Sultan Sri Susuhunan Paku Buwono X (of Surakarta). According to Pasoepati Net, this was the first stadium to be built by Indonesians, rather than by the Dutch. The football field was inclosed within an athletics track and surrounded by four light towers. The light towars – as at Tambak Sari Stadium in Surabaya are on the inside of the stadium. Sriwedari Stadium was used as the host venue for the first Pekan Olahraga Nasional – National Sports Week – held in 1948 between 8th-12th September. The sports week competition was an outcome of the official rejection of Indonesian athletes’ participation in the 1948 London Summer Olympics.
Although Indonesia had become independent in 1945, the UK didn’t accept Indonesian passports. They stipulated that Indonesian citizens had to use Dutch passports; this was, of course, unacceptable to the Indonesian athletes. Surakarta had the best facilities of the time in Indonesia and Sriwedari Stadium remains classic in its style, to this day. Participants in the PON were based on city clusters. The representatives included: Surakarta (Solo), Yogyakarta, Bandung, Surabaya and Jakarta. But, also smaller cities of Madiun, Kedu and Banyuwangi. A lack of international recognition and the frustration at being unable to participate in the summer Olympics provided the background for discourse on the uniting of the discourse of sport and nationalism and opposition.
Erry walks slowly around the pitch. He is generally silent and talks only softly with Aldi. On the train back to Yogya, Erry thanks me for the half-day trip to Solo. It has been refreshing, he says. An opportunity to get out of town and to remember his good old days. He remembered the adulation and his time of a more carefree youth. The following morning he is back at Lapangan Minggiran in the south of Yogyakarta, talking once more with his ex-player mates. Their futures are uncertain. They can either be called up in a flash for a new coaching position; or the call may not come. And then, a few days before my own departure from Indonesia, Erry too has gone. This time he is off to Cirebon to be one of their goalkeeping coaches. Stadiums are built under the aegis of state and regional governments, but they become home to players and supporters who make them their own repositories of memories.
Erry and Roger Milla (courtesy Bawah Skor and Erry Abdullah)