Gresik or Grissee as many Indonesian people still say, is an important regency in East-Java. The regency’s administrative center is the town of Gresik, about 25 km to the northwest of Surabaya. You might know Gresik because of its huge port, the many coffee shops called warkop (Warung Kopi), or because of the unstable performance of its local football club. Gresik United.
The Gresik regency inhabits over 1.300.000 people and many of them are working in the agriculture sector. There are also a few large factories based in Gresik. Including the largest cement factory in Indonesia (Semen Gresik). Which supplies 41% of the Indonesian market, and PT Petrokimia Gresik. The largest fertilizer producer in the country.
The suburb of Surabaya also has its own professional football club! Not as old and famous as neighboring club Persebaya, but definitely worth a visit! Nowadays they are active in the third Indonesian football league. But once they were proud champions of the highest tier of Indonesian football. But what happened to the once so successful Gresik United?
Petrokimia Putra Gresik
It started in 1988, Gresik finally got its own local football club with the Petrokimia Company as its big sponsor. Armed with the financial backing of this firm, the club was ready to take on the big boys. Quickly after the launch of the club, many Gresik residents embraced the new local football club and the fan base grew rapidly.
“Petrokimia Putra Gresik” quickly became a force to be reckoned with in the national competition. Starting of in the lower regions but quickly rising to the highest level within Indonesian football. Within the blink of an eye, Petrokimia Putra Gresik took top honors in the Indonesian League and managed to convert that into victory in 2002. Within just 14 years of its existence, the small club from East Java managed to get to the top of the Indonesian Football pyramid.
Not long after the club’s biggest success, financial setbacks hit the Petrokimia Company and the money flows to the club had to be reversed. Despite the success of the club, Petrokimia Putra Gresik was seen as a surplus to the corporation’s immediate needs and requirements. Supporters reacted emotionally to the news that the future of their beloved football was on the verge of bankruptcy. Supporters gathered multiple times to demonstrate at the regency’s office and to beg for new sponsorship deals to save their club.
On the 2nd of December 2005, the People’s Representative Assembly office finally presented a solution for the fans. They became the new owners of Petrokimia Putra Gresik, merging it with Gresik-based semi-professional Football Persegres to create Gresik United Football Club.
Gresik United continued to be a tough team to beat in the league. Especially at home, Gresik United was one of the best performing football clubs in the country. With the support of its famous ultras, not many teams traveled to Gresik thinking to pick up 3 points easily.
Everything looked fine, until things took a turn for the worse in 2017. The East Java side picked up only 10 points that season and relegated to the second league. Due to some side issues and sanctions, the club even got a 3 points penalty that season which resulted in the last place in the league. The supporters barely had time to adjust to the new surroundings in the second league before they relegated again! Two consecutive relegations in two seasons was unacceptable for a former league winning club. The ultras started a research and found that the holding company failed to pay salaries to 22 players worth around 458 million Rupiah. Without receiving a salary, the players didn’t have the drive to perform as they had done during the club’s successful years.
The supporters started to boycott the club’s matches and instead of buying tickets, they donated the money to the players. An amazing gesture from the fans.
In October 2019, fans gathered to demonstrate against the current holding company. The demonstration became heated but turned-out to be successful. The supporters wanted to be part of the club. In February 2020, the paperwork to confirm the transition of Gresik United to a new public company ( PT Persegres Joko Samudro) were signed and the supporters officially became part of the club. Nowadays it feels like the destiny of the club is back in the hands of the supporters.
We hope Gresik United finds their way back up again! The atmosphere during the club’s best performing years seems was a joy to watch. Gresik United played their home games in the Petrokimia Stadium and nowadays in the Gelora Joko Samudro, both not far from Persebaya’s big Gelora Bung Tomo Stadium.
Although the new Gelora Joko Samudro is quite impressive with its huge VIP/Main tribune, we prefer the smaller Petrokimia Stadium with its green surroundings.