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Ultras in Indonesia

Indonesia occupies a curious place in global football culture. Football is everywhere in Indonesia: in the streets, in bars, in narrow alleys, in grand and packed stadiums, and in the shabby empty lots of urban decay. The game is a cultural product open to endless varieties of meanings, uses and articulations. Football, as the world’s game, is sometimes ‘the beautiful game’, but, it is also a game that produces ugly conflicts, and is thoroughly corrupted by politicians and bureaucrats. Popular non-fiction works have shown how playing the game involves a complicated negotiated with prevailing political orthodoxies as well as placating local mafias through match fixing.ii ‘Modern football’ is anathema for many football fans; ‘modern football’, in the eyes of hardcore fans has been corrupted by Sky Sports or Fox Sport while clubs sell out to the highest bidder and disregard the loyal, local fan. At the same time, many kinds of football fans are anathema to the kind of football that is being shaped into an easily consumable product that is produced in a safe, clean, sterile and intricately (and intimately) surveilled space.

Many of the developments in contemporary football culture are strongly protested against by fans, known as ultras. Although, there are fierce rivalries between ultras of different teams, they are united by common styles of clothing, tattoos, values and ways of performing within  stadiums. Being ultra is a global culture that takes on local meanings and practices. As such, we continue on from other articles exploring the varieties of ultras in Japan, The Netherlands (Spaaij 2007) and Spain (Spaaij & Vinas 2006). This article seeks to contribute to the research on football in Indonesia and to analyse the rise of ultra fan culture through the examples of three fan groups in Java.

*This is an excerpt of my article (co-authored with Fajar Junaedi) to be published in a forthcoming edition of Sport in Society, edited by Dr.Mark Doidge (University of Brighton)

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