This was going to be my post last week but Sidd’s death while I was away obviously took precedent.
If you’ve been following my work over the past several months, there is one subject that I’ve written about more than any other: Indonesian football. Last weekend I was away with a group of fellow Bali United supporters (aka Semeton Dewata) on the first leg of their quarterfinal tie with Arema Cronus, the team from Malang in East Java. I’m not going to go too in depth because I’ll hopefully be putting together a larger piece for publication elsewhere in the not-too-distant future. But I still thought I’d share some highlights and lowlights. We’ll start with the latter.
- 25+ hours on a bus. We left Friday evening and drove through the night. Malang is somewhere between an 11- and 13-hour drive away and on a bus where the seats are frankly not made for 6-foot-4 (and a half) gentlemen, that’s a long ride. I ended up sleeping on the floor for a couple hours. My travelling companion (who was also too large for the seats) and I were hoping to get some sleep but rather than a quiet and restful environment and in addition the cramped quarters, Indonesian karaoke music was blaring until around 3am. The ride back was somewhat more subdued but longer (around 14 hours).
- Bali United lost 2-1. And played poorly. Arema’s stadium is a pretty intimidating environment and United fielded a young squad but their defense was disorganized and their midfield got pushed around. When they had possession they did use their width well but they’re going to have to play much better in their home leg this evening if they’re going to advance.
- Malang is a cool city in more ways than one. The city sits in the East Javanese highlands and apart from the middle of the day, the temperature is perfect. Because of this cooler highland climate, the city was popular among the colonial Dutch as an escape from the unending heat of Surabaya – a major port a couple hours to the north – and so it is well-planned with wide tree-lined boulevards and art-deco buildings that are older than the Indonesian nation.
- Bali United only lost 2-1 and they scored an away goal.
In truth it could’ve been much worse. Despite United taking the lead through a 66th minute penalty, Arema looked the more dangerous team throughout and hit the post more than once. Because of the away goal, Bali United only need to win 1-0 to advance to the semifinals.
- Joining in the Semeton Dewata cheering section. Ok so maybe ‘joining’ isn’t exactly the correct word since I didn’t actually do much singing. The words were in Indonesian and I’m not one for going too gila. It also seemed like the Semeton Dewata were
more interested in their chants than the actual gameplay, which is what I really wanted to see. Still, between the constant beat of drums from our corner and watching the 20,000+ members of Aremania perform their own chants across the pitch, it was definitely an experience.
After that bus trip, you better believe I’ll be making the hour ride up to Stadion Kapten Dipta for the decider this evening. I’ll make sure to keep you updated.