Indonesia has never qualified for FIFA World Cup, the biggest football tournament in the world. The closest thing we had to a World Cup participation is in 1938 World Cup when some players brought by the colonial government to compete under the name of Dutch Indies. However, the lack of involvement in major tournament doesn’t stop this nation to take part in any footballing event in its own special way: avid spectators.
Euro Cup 2012 has started and this time it’s no different. Considering Indonesia is not even geographically eligible to take part in the biggest football tournament in Europe, the hype and level of enthusiasm following the Euro must have left some people scratching their heads. Suddenly you can spot the football shirts of one of the Euro participants worn on the streets. The football fanatics from upper-middle class might use authentic team merchandise while the ones from lower class are satisfied with the counterfeited shirts.
Another Indonesian thing that always goes along with any major football tournament is the phenomenon of “NonBar” (Nonton Bareng). The word doesn’t have an English translation because there’s no specific word to describe the activity of watching football matches on TV together. People go to pubs to have a pint of lager and watch football or rugby altogether and the activity is known simply as watching sports. But somehow, the communal nature of Indonesia prompted us to call it “nonbar” to distinguish it from watching football matches at home.
From the lavish, high-end cafe that charges more than Rp 100,000 for entrance to a campus terrace that costs nothing and encourage the attendants to bring their own meal, for the next 23 days you’ll find how easy it is to find a “nonbar” place. As the tournament advances to the latter stages, the “nonbar” phenomenon will duplicate in numbers, including the ones in unlikely places like an empty field in the village where the residents will erect a giant screen for all to see. A football version of “layar tancep” (open theater).
The “nonbar” culture is not strange to the people in high places, including President SBY who invited members of his cabinet to watch the opening match of 2010 World Cup between South Africa and Mexico, where the singing president famously asked the Youth and Sports Minister Andi Malarangeng about Carlos Vela’s disallowed goal. On the day of the World Cup final, SBY once again conducted a “nonbar,” this time in his residence in Cikeas, Bogor. It’s yet to be known whether the president will hold another “nonbar” event for this Euro, but it’s surely an effective way to garner attention and look populist.
The level of football fanaticism here is notoriously high, but these upcoming “nonbar” events could raise the bar even higher. One of the most absurd news I read during 2010 World Cup is how the Spain’s supporters and Netherlands’ fans clashed against each other, not in South Africa, but in Indonesia, after a “nonbar” where both sets of fans watched the match on giant screen and none of them were actually Spanish or Dutch. Strange indeed, but it reflects how enthusiast the Indonesians are towards global football events.
One would like to ask whether those cafe hooligans were aware that it’s not actually their countries that were playing. But yes, the lack of achievement of national football has made it natural to our people to cherish for tournaments like Euro despite just being mere spectators. The fans here don’t see countries like Spain, Germany or England as a nation supported by their own people, but rather like football clubs that could attract global followers. It’s a common question among local football fans to ask to one another, “Which country do you support?” because they simply don’t have any team to root for.
It may look ridiculous but it’s happening. And for the next 3 weeks, non-football fans must get used to see their colleagues or classmates turned up late in sleepy eyes because they stay awake late to watch Euro 2012 matches. There’s a lot of domestic problems lately, but once comes the night, we will let ourselves swayed by the tournament held thousand miles away in Ukraine and Poland.