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12 August 2012

High-Flying Ranger — Good ‘Fly’ Asia.

By Bradley

QPR Vs Peresabaya FC
Surabaya, Indonesia
Monday 23rd July, 2012.

Given their full impressive name, Persatuan Sepakbola Surabaya, Peresabaya were given the task to take on QPR in their penultimate game on their South East Asian tour.

The footballing giants of Malaysia did nothing more than tickle the QPR side on their two previous games. However, speaking to many sources based in Indonesia, they were hyping this game to be something of a highlight and a more difficult test for QPR. It wasn’t just the footballing knowledge of the opposition these sources stressed, but were more concerned for my nasal passages. It became clear as to why they suggested protecting my snout.

On arrival into Surabaya, it was late, dark, and pretty quiet. After taking a one hour drive from the airport to the hotel, it became apparent to me that it looked like we’d been driving around a sparse Industrial Estate for the duration of that time. Surabaya is known to be Indonesia’s second largest Metropolis, and I struggled to believe this. We passed banks, more banks, and then more banks again. It was now clear as to what was Surabaya’s main source of employment and capital. There was the odd mall, even if it did look out of place, they were impressive in size, but not so impressive in content (unless you wanted cosmetic surgery or a quick blow-dry).

If I am honest, I was slightly disappointed with the football on display in the previous two games, and was totally looking forward to seeing how Indonesia’s finest measure up against an improving QPR.

It was no surprise to me, that the stadium was located two hours away from the ‘city centre’, and how intelligently thought out it was by the suits of Surabaya to place the stadium in the centre of a sewage treatment plantation. On first glance at this city, one thing was for sure, it wasn’t lacking space, so to place this stadium in the middle of a sewage plantation, in the centre of agricultural dwellings was baffling. The stadium did put a glamorous spin on the sewage works, being a huge concrete monster lit by what looked to be lights not even worthy of illuminating a bathroom. It was as if they set out to intimidate the opposition, and, be sure of my word it was working.

If they [the crazy people behind the though process], didn’t exactly get the location of the stadium correct, surely they would make this stadium smoothly accessible both in and out, right. nope, your wrong, they decided on one road in, and one road out, that being the same road. The most genius part of this Einstein like idea, was that the road was one lane. Excellent. 3 hours later, we were in, and 7 hours later, we were out.

The fans of Peresabaya, don’t get there nickname ‘Bonek’ for being the friendliest and welcoming lot. They’re the ‘hooligans’ of Indonesian football. So, how nice of Airasia to sit me in the Peresabaya crowd. If i was aware of this earlier, I’d of opted for a greener shade of white and blue I was wearing in support of QPR.

Approaching the stadium was like walking with one million peas trying to fit into one pod. The land surrounding the ground was submerged in colours of green and black, and it was not coming from the sewage infested meadows, but fans of Peresabaya. It looked like the whole of the city turned up to watch their team, and at a grand total of 3 USD, tickets were easily affordable for the masses. The Bung Tomo stadium has an official capacity of 50,000, but just for this occasion, somehow, the governing bodies whether it was unofficial or not, let in more than 50,000. the place was jammed. The over population did contribute to the atmosphere, however, for me, sitting in the colours of QPR squashed in between two well built locals easily capable of benching a truck of cattle, sure made me uneasy.

And just if I wasn’t scared enough, the stadium lights flickered off. What I first thought was an organised blackout, turned out to be a technical fault. Just my luck. The only white person in a stadium of 50,000+ locals was not what I or Airasia planned (I hope). However, the stadium turned into a theatrical cauldron of noise, abusive chants, and fine fireworks prompted by flares. I was becoming to like the fact that I was potentially at my last football game, and enjoyed the occasion.

From start to finish the fans never tired. I can honestly say thsi was one of the best football matches I have ever been to. Some say these fans are ‘bonek’–Hooligans, but coming from Europe, and seeing other fans in the world, i.e. Turkish supporters, Indonesians are a far cry from the unacceptable behaviour displayed at continental European games. The people of Peresabaya are highly passionate and care about the team they love. Football happens to be a sport in Indonesia that, quite rightly, throws status, class and socioeconomic status out of the window and is an affordable event for all. When people who are struggling financially, or from sectors of social deprivation, an event like this is wonderful, as it allows all walks of life come together uniting through one common factor, football. It is thanks to Airasia for making this happen. Well done.

QPR went on to win the game in a very narrow affair. Peresabaya certainly put their name on the map of Asian Football, and can be proud of their efforts, and proud to have fans like those of Peresabaya. A thoroughly enjoyable experience made possible from Airasia and perfected by their wonderful staff, namely; Swee Ping, Virginie, Derik, and all the other Allstars working behind the scene. Thank you.