During Indonesia’s World Cup qualifier against Bahrain at Gelora Bung Karno on Tuesday, our football supporters have achieved what the activists and student unions had been trying to accomplish for years. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono surrendered his seat in the VVIP box at the moment the fans started to throw firecrackers on the pitch.
The match was postponed for a while after the fans went further by targeting the Bahraini players with fireworks. The lively atmosphere suddenly changed into something like a war zone. Firecrackers were heard exploding everywhere, red flares were burning and some fans, especially those with kids, left the stadium out of concern for their safety.
Basically, those responsible for the havoc are the fans. After all, they’re the ones who started aiming at the Bahraini players after they scored their second goal. It’s such an immature act from our fans who couldn’t take the defeat on the chin. Some people blamed the Bahraini players for their provocative goal celebration but frankly I think it’s rather understandable. When you play under the pressure of 70,000 hostile fans and your national anthem was jeered, having a go at the opposition is quite acceptable. I don’t think it’s malicious at all.
The supporters might have sparked the incident, but it leaves a bigger question mark on the organizing committee and the security. How the hell did the fans manage to smuggle the firecrackers to the stands? Wasn’t security obliged to check all the fans and decide what is allowed to go in and what is not?
I watched Tuesday’s game from Sector 18 – colloquially known as Curva Sud to the fans — right behind the goal. These are not the most expensive seats in the house and there are people from various social classes. When I entered the gate, I was impressed by how tight security was. Fans were frisked heavily and not even a tobacco lighter was allowed to go in. Water bottles were also prohibited and if you carried any, you’d be asked to pour the water into a plastic bag.
The moment I got myself inside — just when I thought security had done a good job — street vendors were all over the place selling water in bottles! What’s the point of denying bottles at the gate if the spectators can buy it inside? It’s a redundant check.
The policy of confiscating tobacco lighters at the gate also proved to be pointless because somehow the majority of the fans still had the lighters on them. I’m not sure whether they denied lighters in other sectors or not, but the Bonfire Night at GBK proved that security had been compromised.
This half-hearted security policy may prove costly for Indonesia. Sanctions from the Asian Football Confederation are looming and we will be lucky if we can get away with just a fine. The organizing committee has to tighten security policies ahead of the next matches. Supporters may bring anything they want to the stadium gates, but it’s security guards who have the final word on what they can bring inside.