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  • Rumaisha Ghina

Indonesia's Football Frenzy

(Image courtesy of PSSI)

The sport that unites the world. Football for the rest of the world, and soccer for Americans. From sweaty kids in classrooms giving their best penalty kick during recess to professional athletes dreaming of becoming the next Ronaldo or Messi, the sport's accessibility—requiring minimal equipment and space—makes it a favorite among all ages. Football's universal appeal and the emotional highs and lows it provides contribute to its status as a global obsession. In Indonesia, the passion for football is deep-rooted and widespread, encompassing all aspects of society, from local street games to large-scale professional matches.

Football was introduced to Indonesia during the Dutch colonial period in the early 20th century. The first football event in Indonesia was held to commemorate the colonial tentoostelling (Dutch colonial celebration). It quickly gained popularity and became a significant part of Indonesian culture. The establishment of the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) in 1930 marked a pivotal milestone in the sport's development in the country. Since then, football's popularity has only grown, with major tournaments and local leagues drawing large crowds and widespread media coverage.

Despite the sport’s popularity in Indonesia, its engagement differs from that in Europe. While Europeans from various social standings attend local matches, Indonesians, particularly those of upper middle classes, prefer watching European leagues on TV despite the major time differences. 

Additionally, local football journalism isn't as developed as in Europe, where in-depth discussions thrive in niche communities. Football, though widely played, doesn't have the same accessible infrastructure as in Latin America, North Africa, or Europe. Despite football's widespread participation, infrastructure in Indonesia is not as accessible as in Latin America, North Africa, or Europe. Contrasting to this is badminton, which, with superior organization and governance, rivals football as the most played sport in Indonesia.

Unfortunate, but not rare, cases of corruption plague local football in Indonesia, often resulting in manipulated match outcomes. Despite its popularity, most Indonesians consume football passively, as opposed to the analytical culture prevalent in Europe. 

Many believe that Indonesia’s golden age of football has yet to succumb to a decline, suggesting that it's only the beginning. Recently, the Garuda Muda, coached by Shin-Tae Yong, or STY, has proven themselves in the AFC U-23 Championship, winning against countries such as Jordan and Australia and even achieving a draw with South Korea. However, their dream of competing in the Olympics was cut short after a devastating 2-1 loss to Iraq and a 1-0 loss to Guinea in the AFC-CAF playoff.

"This national team has a golden generation... The achievement of the U-23 national team brings new pride and proves that football has the power to unite Indonesia," said Erick Thohir, chairman of PSSI. Let us wish the national football team the best of luck. 



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