Here I am at the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy, watching the final between Brunei and Indonesia. I came here quite skeptical. There was wave of optimism; Tweets exclaiming that Brunei has something finally to cheer about, Facebook statuses wondering how magnificent it was to support a team like Brunei. Which was then submerged in doubt; objects apparently hurled at supporters of opposition and claims of racist chants aimed at fans, added to this “booing” during national anthems.
So, I sit here waiting for the football to happen, not wishing for anything dire to occur and hoping to watch football beyond the issues that have marred the enjoyment of the game for spectators of this noble sport. “Yaaahaaaa” was one of the chants that hung around the stadium, it was sung in an enthusiastic manner, only to dissipate without warning. Earlier on, there was some noise from the supporters. The supporters of Indonesia were essentially cornered; to one side sat Bruneians enthusiastically grinning at the ready, and to the other side, there were more Bruneian supporters with equal amusement on their faces.
Red, between Yellow. Usually this combination is in a form of a cake, custard or maybe jam. Its clear that having a stadium in an oval shape has its disadvantages, one of them being; if supporters wearing Red, are sitting among other supporters wearing Yellow, from afar one might think it was a large Sponge Cake. Where the Indonesians fans were in close proximity to Bruneian fans, sound erupted from what I gather were inconsequential incidents. From the vantage point I was sitting, only eruptions of sound piqued our interest. Other than that, I was engaged in a conversation with a man that sat next to me in a tidy grey shirt with buckles on his shoes that were shined handsomely. His wife sat besides him but was obstructed behind a jutting stand, he relayed information to her that I passed onto him casually in conversation. At points during the match I told him of the time, There are 3 minutes left and what happened on the other side of the pitch It was a throw-in. I didn’t say goodbye to him, he sort of drifted away from me.
Confusingly they played Faith Hill, There You’ll Be. A method to keep morale up, hoping that somewhere in the lyrics a football anthem will emerge about being with your team until the whistle blows. Faith Hill playing through the speakers was discordant with the tension building up, the tension of whether anything will happen between the Sponge Cake. Faith Hill interrupts these thoughts, “In my dreams I’ll always see you soar above the sky”, she is probably making note of the impending rain (which never fell, there was no rain even though those around me were well prepared for such an eventuality). Bruneian supporters gestured “balik” to Indonesian supporters, hoping somehow they will go back somewhere. This accompanied a shooing gesture.
I am confused, there are over twenty photographers. Where have they come from. How did they get here? They converge in a circle, being told of the specifics of their task. Behind Indonesians fans chant gleefully, photographers turn their attention towards this and aim in their general direction, some Indonesian supporters have their shirts off, some with masks. This could be true or just one of the limitation of the distance. I’m not sure what I am seeing. Some with flags bearing the words, “Bon3x J3mb3r”, others with slogans, whole sentences too complex and far away to read. Something political perhaps, something to stop me from thinking and make me wonder why chocolate is so enticing, to touch and to taste.
The sounds are something to behold as are the mellow sounds which emit from the speakers, no more Faith Hill. On first listen, I had thought it was Shania Twain, but to my bemusement it was Faith Hill, a song off the Pearl Harbour soundtrack. Somehow gasps of Brunei Yakin escape on the speakers, a song that wasn’t played in its entirety before the match or even after the match had ended. Inorganic compared to the unison in which the Indonesians sing. “Yea ah”, which could also be transcribed as “yyyyeeee hah”, or “Ywweee ahh”. The last part is more noticeable than the beginning of this chant, it is where they exhale, and gesticulate. We acknowledge they are there.
In retaliation Bruneians attempt to create a Mexican wave, they are created by those optimistic that the whole stadium will follow suit. On the first go, only a few submit themselves to the wave, from the other side of the stadium you can see the attempt peter out. Those which begin the wave are assured that, yes people will stand in unison but only in a vertical row, they will wave their arms, they will be joyful, they will be merry, they will be pleased they are here. From the middle of the crowd the Mexican wave emerges.
Was there a shout? Somewhere there is a shout. Most sounds are inaudible, muffled, indistinct. Behind me sits a man, wearing a thinly striped shirt, who, as the match goes on finds himself the confidence to shout obscenities towards the lineman and players. He first sat next to me with a gentle smile and a phone. He definitely had a phone. Initially he remained restrained, I first noticed his tourette-like abuse, as he become more restless, moving his body to an unheard rhythm. Behind me I heard a voice shouting, it was him the man with the phone and the thinly striped shirt, he shouted about the colour of a persons skin and his understanding of where such a person should belong.
With each shout from this side of the stadium, its a direct statement to the opposition. We are better supporters. Photographers are visibly having their picture taken in a group. If we are here to take pictures, who will take pictures of us? Behind me, a young female excitedly cries, “lagi lagi” she wants to be part of the Mexican wave, again. Its around the stadium, its going around the stadium.The Mexican wave is going around the stadium. I quickly stand, wishing to partake, its gone, to the right of me. Its goes. I missed out on it and this puts me off joining another Mexican wave. I don’t join another Mexican wave during this match.
Now the Indonesians supporters fill half of their allocation, their flag is a plain red, which sits on top of white. The Bruneian flag is complex, there is red, there is yellow, there is black, there is white. An announcer amps up the crowd. The announcers, one speaks in English the other in Malay, urges the crowd to be at ease. In English, and then again in Malay, again and again urging the crowd to be sensible. Be at ease, the voice asks us, from what would be a sheet, they are reading from a sheet. He reads to us be at ease. The announcer speaks as if he is next to us, he wants it all go well. He is there. There is half and hour until the match. I think it is only half and hour, later I learn my estimation is wrong, most, if not all games start at 8.15. That is when they start.
The man next to me, the one with the tidy grey shirt, observes that the Indonesian fans aren’t sitting down, in fact they are standing up. From here it is unclear if anybody is sitting. There is some confusion to this, Bruneians are still unsure how to show support. There is jumping, there is waving, there are loud exclamations of “olé olé” (which I have only just noticed, without the accent on the e, sounds alot like oil, oil.). Individual Bruneians flags, aren’t as large or as spectacular as the Indonesians ones. At least they don’t sell them. As an ad hoc measure, supporters from the Bruneian side, join flags; short side by short side in attempt to outdo the dexterity in which the Indonesians move their flags. Not only can the Indonesian flag be moved up and done by one supporter, the flag can be move vertically by all their supporters. This is solidarity. We have joined the flags up. Be part of the flag made of flags.
As the Bruneian team trains they look visibly nervous, ignoring the crowd. We are obviously here. Some shout their names, it was probably only a week ago, maybe days ago when people would have trouble giving names to their faces. Names on the back of their shirts help. Whose names are they chanting anyway? Cousins? Friends? Hairstyles here are aplenty, some have cropped hair, some prefer to gel their hair, others prefer a style that I can’t quite describe.
Those with the haircuts are looking down at the grass, at their boots, looking anywhere else but at the people on the stands. We are watching them. Do they notice me when they train? When they warm up are they wondering if Astro is showing a rerun of SpongeBob SquarePants, that episode when SpongeBob runs amok in driving school? As the player stretches his arm out he looks to the crowd, suddenly realising, that perhaps yes, we are watching him. Their parents are watching. The television is soon to be turned onto them, there will be people watching. There will be people watching me play. Moverover I am stuck by how young they seem, this fact – visible on their faces and in their stature – stayed with me until about the fourth minute of the football game until I became absorbed at how obstructed I was from a full view of the pitch.
At the thought of success, Bruneians are lost. Do they just wave the flag? Should they just scream in jubilation? The Bruneian supporter react to Indonesian fans, they observe their chants, flags are moving vertically akin to a Windows 95 screen saver. Now do a Mexican wave. Up, then down.
The Bruneian team trains with precision. There are clearly defined areas marked by cones, by lines, movement is restricted to these zones. Each zone is a form they have to fill, bring your IC, photocopy your documents, have you gotten a signature yet? Each task completed without delay, each area occupied, filled in. It is defined, it is clear. Their training differed from that of Indonesia, Brunei’s emphasis is on order, exercise in lines, The Indonesian team completed stretches individually. The training for Brunei looks far more compact, maybe I’m viewing training from a higher elevation that one should normally view training. The Indonesian team train either in a pairing or in a group, with their coach overlooking their regiment. There are clearly more relaxed smiling as they complete their tasks. The flags are up again, dispersed among the Bruneians supporters. The noise from the crowd has died down and we are all wondering when the game is going to start.
Of course it starts at 8.15, we know this, I know this now, we all know this but when does it actually start? When does the ball get whizzed around. When? Now? Now the stadium is quieter. To my left are claps for the Bruneian team, out there. They are shouting for Brunei, there are excited by this team. I have long thought that football is a pensive place, where we can gather our thoughts about what we should do with our lives, what kind of people we should be, until I am interrupted.
The national anthem was sung with gusto that one would expect for football chants. It was sung, from the lungs, with emphasis in odd places and heavy breathes. The FIFA anthem was played with pomp, fans clapping to the beat hoping for a chant to emerge and it did. They sing “olé olé” to it, out of tune and hopelessly out of rhythm. We stay standing, both anthems are well observed. It was touching to see Indonesians pray before the match, the Bruneian team is in a huddle.
Lots of pressure early on from Brunei on the right, trying to get the ball to number 7, Md Azwan Ali Rahman. Brunei hold a back three which over loads the middle of the park, this switched in the second half to a back four owing to the wing play by Indonesia.
Indonesia hold a compact line which pushes forward every time Brunei breaks. Brunei try and spread their defence by playing two forwards on the far right and left, and play through balls to them, but this doesn’t work effectively. So far no team has attempted to hold the ball. 2 minutes in.
During free kicks Indonesia doesn’t commit too many players forward and prefers a short ball back instead playing it back into their own half. 6 minutes in. Indonesia playing with full backs, with two central defenders. Yosua Pahabol of Indonesia is caught offside, he is quick on the ball and poses an aerial threat.
On the left Indonesia are finding space, Brunei is unable to cover, but when the ball does come in from a cross they effectively clear it. Indonesia have the advantage in the air. Andik Vermanshah who wears the captains armband makes a good run into the box in the 9th minute making a clever run through the Bruneian midfield.
The Bruneian midfield is completely absent, the team is defending deep which allows Indonesia to swiftly counter attack and exploit the space in the middle of the park. All in for Indonesia as they move around the box for a corner, Md Fakrul Zulhazmi bin Yussof Brunei’s keeper grabs it confidently. MD Azri bin Zahari goes down from a knock, he has been covering the left flank stopping the runs of Yosua Pahabol. In the middle of the park MD Hendra Azam bin Md Idris is trying to be too clever and losses possession.
Indonesia surges again on the left, they are more comfortable on the ball. Brunei tries to cross it into the box for a knock on but its ineffective, the two forwards aren’t deep enough to receive the ball. Md Nurikhwan bin Othman for Brunei is playing centrally but isn’t asking for the ball enough. Brunei aren’t able to hold the ball and get passes going due to the heavy pressing game by Indonesia.
Md Hendra Azam bin Md Idris plays as a defensive midfielder to cover the back four and protect against runs by Yosua Pahabol. Indonesia are happy to sit back and pass the ball around. 18 minutes in and Brunei looks for space on the right. One of the few chances Md Azwan Ali Rahman has the ball but decides to pass it back instead.
Achmad Faris Ardiansyah is being closely marked by Md Azwan Ali Rahman, trying to use his movement to beat his marker. Yosua Pahabol cuts inside Md Azri bin Zahari easily leaving a gap in the box resulting in a corner. First chance in the 20th minute for Brunei from a poor defensive header. No shots on goal for Brunei, plenty of opportunities for Indonesia to get the ball into the penalty area. 23 minutes now played.
Yosua Pahabol switches sides hoping to get better service from the midfield and attempts to get pass the last man to cross it in. Brunei are dealing with headers far more effectively, clearing calmly from crosses. Brunei try to move the ball around to the right of the field but is denied space from Indonesia.
Indonesia uses the cross field ball to move the gap between defence and midfield. Indonesia are better at closing down the ball, Brunei are more likely to rush into challenges. Not sure what Md Najib bin Hj Tarif is trying to do, no crosses successful yet.
All Brunei have so far are half chances, Indonesia haven’t been decisive in their clearances, and the Bruneians forwards put their foot out hoping for the best. Brunei plays defensively this first half when not on the ball they are marking Indonesian players. While Indonesian players are playing positionally, covering the space made by runs from the Bruneian players. Indonesia are now finding it easy to dribble past players, but struggle to find space.
Free kick to Brunei in the 39th minute, Md Azri bin Zahari was only inches wide from making it one nil. Crowd anticipating something, and are quieting down. Coach Kwon Oh-Son is on the sidelines frantically moving players into position. Once Brunei starts to attack nobody is in the centre to receive the ball in the midfield.
From a throw in, Md Azwan Ali Rahman cuts inside only to have his shot saved. Fans are frustrated and the handful of chances the Bruneian team has. There is some frustration from Bruneian fans because of the patient buildup by the team and allowing Indonesia to attack through the wings.
Out of nowhere a band plays, the sound doesn’t resonant through the stadium and feels soft and measured compared to the chants of supporters. During the game Indonesian supporters shout “Nasi Katok”, the humour of this goes over the Bruneian supporters.
Corner for Indonesia early on in the second half, this leads to a counter attack by Brunei. They move on the left hand side, crossing the ball into the box. Brunei score in the 47 minute from a defensive mistake and uncertainty from the usually assured goalkeeper Aji Saka of Indonesia. Md Aminuddin Zakwan bin Tahir was in the box to put it in and capitalise on the mistake. The Indonesian defensive wasn’t organised and in the space, where the centre back should have been, the ball was headed down for an easy tap in.
Moments later the ball is threaded through to Md Azwan Ali Rahman who runs free from the defender and narrowly misses. Brunei set a high tempo and are closing down more. The ball is being intercepted by Brunei after absorbing pressure in the first half from Indonesia. Now Indonesia is forcing play, rather than move the ball between the back line waiting for the forwards to find space, they are just playing the ball cross field for the Bruneian players to clear it away.
Fadly M of Indonesia who wears number 11 comes off for Miko Ardiyanto. Brunei waits to get into the opponents half before launching the ball into the Indonesia’s defence, the ball falls much closer to Aji Saka and forces the keeper to make a save. Freekick in the 69th minute for Brunei. Players running in to create space, a disappointing corner given the options available and the defensive vulnerability of Indonesia.
Another shot wide from Indonesia in the 58th minute, a lack of options in the box. Collision in the 60th minute between Yosua Pahabol and Adi bin Said from a ball launched into the penalty area by Kurniawan who is wearing number 13. Brunei look more assured on the ball and are controlling play well.
The referee has been quite lenient not giving freekicks on contact alone and letting play go on. 66 minutes in, number 13 Hazwan bin Hamzah is on the ground, and moments later Md Hendra Azam bin Md Idris is off the field receiving treatment. Due to injury he comes off for Reduan bin Hj Petara.
A shot from outside the box on his right foot by Kurniawan goes wide. Md Azri bin Zahari continues his covering of Yosua Pahabol, the Indonesian forward is still unable to make effective runs to find his teammates. Indonesia waste another corner. Now there are 71 minutes on the clock.
Close control outside the area for Brunei stringing a number of passes, being allowed time on the ball by Indonesia but denied at the edge of the area by the Indonesian midfielders. Brunei seats deep again, allowing Indonesia to pass the ball but they aren’t passing as quickly as they did at the start of the first half. Abdul Kamil Sembiring comes on for Ridwan Awaludin in the 74th minute who wasn’t able to create enough chances.
Indonesia are pushing for a goal in the 75th minute which leaves them open to a Bruneian counter attack, Adi bin Said loses the defender and slips it in the back of the net, wheels away to back flip and celebrate to the crowd. Indonesia tried to hold a high line but lost discipline trying to attack, desperately needing to get a goal. Adi bin Said took advantage of a through ball on the left hand side, he slips the ball in the narrow space to the left of the keeper, the defender Syaiful Indra Cahya was unable to keep up with his pace and slipped to looking for a foul.
I become aware that across the stadium, bottles are being thrown between the Indonesian and Bruneians supporters in the 78th minute. The police intervenes. Freekick for Indonesia in the 80th minute. The police move the Indonesian fans away from the Bruneians supporters. The gap between the supporters widens, but the police aren’t moving the Bruneian supporters back until later.
Another free kick for Indonesia outside the box. Throughout the game, Indonesia has had plenty of chance from free kicks but the balls are either whipped in too hard or doesn’t beat the first man. Indonesia has lacked the ability to finish effectively, while Brunei has had fewer chances but has been better at converting chances. Now 82 minutes has been played.
Yosua Pahabol tries to cut inside around the defender but is blocked. Another corner from Indonesia that is saved by Adi bin Said assuredly. A break from the right hits the post in the 84th minute by Md Najib bin Hj Tarif, who is exploiting the space left by Indonesia conceding defeat and becoming slack defensively. Md Aminuddin Zakwan bin Tahir passes to Md Nurikhwan bin Othman which results in a corner for Brunei. Indonesia break again, only for Andik Vermanshah to shoot wide. Lots of Indonesian supporters leaving, part of it to do with police intervention and the other to do with the expected goading from the Bruneian supporters.
4 minutes were added due to the injuries on Bruneians players. Most Indonesians shots from outside the box, and have rarely been on target. The players warming up Are urging supporters to get on our feet as Brunei take a corner. All around people are rising to their feet. Bruneian supporters acknowledge, this is something that hasn’t happened before. The final whistle blows. Brunei wins the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy by beating Indonesia 2-0, with goals from Md Aminuddin Zakwan bin Tahir and Adi bin Said.