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Spreading the love for Indonesian football culture

The Rise Of Bali United

Bali is mostly known for its beautiful beaches, the endless amount of temples and hordes of drunk tourists. It’s hardly…

By Awaydays Asia , in Football Culture , at May 29, 2020 Tags: , ,

Bali is mostly known for its beautiful beaches, the endless amount of temples and hordes of drunk tourists. It’s hardly known for its football culture, but since 2015 Bali United and it’s supporters (The North Side boys) are establishing their name in the Indonesian football game. Even crowning themselves as the champions of the Liga 1 in the 2019 season. But how did the club managed to achieve this goal so fast?

Bali United

Bali United was founded in 2015(!) when investors decided to buy the license from Kalimantan based club, Putra Samarinda and relocated the club to the “island of the gods”.  As one of Indonesia’s most popular tourist hotspot’s they assumed there would be more growth opportunities in a place like Bali and they made a good choice to relocate to Gianyar, Bali.

The club changed its badge, name and colors to suit their new location and adopted red, white and black as their colors. These colors are the holy trinity in Hindu belief (Bali’s majority religion) which resemble the three gods: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in Hindu traditions. Hence the supporters of Bali United are nicknamed: Serdadu Tridatu(Tridatu Warriors) & Semeton Dewata (Brothers of the Island of the Gods). Besides that, there is the fanatic side of Bali United who take their place at the north end of the stadium. Their name? North Side Boys’12.

North Side Boys’12

The North Side Boys’12 or NSB are the supporters responsible for creativity and true passion on the terraces of Bali United.

Like many other ultras in Indonesia they draw their inspiration from the European ultras scene as you can see by the adaptation of a few English chants (You’ll Never Walk Alone, We love you Bali and Bali belongs to me).

As a newly founded club and firm it’s always hard to put your name out there, as other clubs and supporters with more history don’t take you seriously in the beginning. But they have proven to be there for the long run, by steadily growing their numbers at both home and away games and the orchestration of many beautiful choreos, The North Side Boys are there to stay.

2017 – Dutch Powerhouse, Hope and Despair

Just two years after founding the club, Bali United managed to turn heads in the highest tier of Indonesian football. During the transfer window they managed to surprise friend and foe by signing 4 players of Dutch descent (Sylvano Comvalius, Irfan Bachdim, Stefano Lilipaly and Nick Van der Velden). 

Under command of the four Dutchmen they battled for the championship in the Liga 1. Bali’s Golden quartet racked up some insane stats and Sylvano Comvalius in Particular who managed to score 37 goals in 34 games.

The Dutch Powerhouse representing their hometown(Amsterdam)
by showing the classic “Andreas crosses” from the city’s coat of arms.
Left to right: Bachdim, Comvalius, Lillypaly, Van der Velden

During the final of the 2017 season, Bali United managed to compete for the championship until the very end of the season. An intense battle was fought between Bali United, Police-owned Bhayangkara and PSM Makassar. The second-last game of the season was a difficult awayday for Bali United to PSM Makassar, where they managed to win the game with 0-1 in extra time, sending the fans of Makassar in riot and those of Bali United in to celebration.

On the final day of the season; Bali United(65 points) and Bhayangkara (66 points) both played their final game of the season at home, and for Bali United their first ever championship title was in reach. At the I Kapten Wayan Dipta stadium in Gianyar they managed to beat Persegres with a solid 3-0, where Bhayankara lost against Persija Jakarta. Everyone celebrated the championship of Bali United only to find out that corruption would throw a spanner in the works. The PSSI decided to convert an earlier draw of Bhayangkara into a win due to Mitra Kukar playing an illegal player during that game. This resulted in a shared number one position with both teams owning 68 points but the title would go to the government-owned team from the capital based on their head-to-head results. This caused outrage big accusations of corruption against the PSSI among the Bali United supporters, players and management and fellow football fans. Right after the match Irfan Bachdim thanked the fans of the club and claimed that everyone knew who the real champion was.

“Thank you to all of you. I know everyone must be sad because we are not champions. But all of Indonesia also knows who the real champion is. Bali United is the winner!”


2019 – Bali United’s Golden Year 

Two years after their glorious 2017 season which ended in despair, the club struggled to keep up the high expectations in 2018 and ended at a disappointing 12th place in the league. But everything turned around in 2019. When Bali United got their sweet revenge by winning the league 4 games before the end of the season, crowning themselves as champions of Indonesia. A truly great achievement for a club that’s relatively new in the Liga 1. The celebration after the game versus Madura United is a memory we won’t forget any time soon. That moment when the pyros ignited and set the Kapten Dipta stadium in to a burning sea of happiness, followed by a massive pitch-invasion from the Bali United supporters was absolute class.

Pyro Party – Bali United vs Madura United by ©Awaydays Asia

But how is it possible that a newly founded club gets to the top of the league that fast? Well the answer is quite obvious, good management in combination with investors create an optimal environment for players to perform. Foreign players are willing to play for the club while local talents are given a chance to develop themselves as well.

Against Modern Football

Ofcourse newly founded clubs with money to invest can count on criticism from the football community. With the global phenomena in football culture to have an aversion for clubs that “buy themselves to the top”, critics consider Bali United as one that is in the same alley as Redbull Salzburg, Manchester City and PSG. What might be a fair call given the fact that they have big investment opportunities, but is this all so bad if you look at the general development of Indonesian football?

Over the years the Indonesian League hasn’t really been building a positive reputation for themselves due to corruption scandals and violence. Besides that, most clubs are lacking professional appearances on social media, in their stadium and on merchandising level. Bali United, with its supporter café, beautiful fan shop, clean dressing rooms and amazing Media department are an exception to the rule. Bali United has raised the bar on those aspects for clubs besides the traditional top clubs and could perhaps be seen as an example of the growth of Indonesia’s football, paving the way for other clubs to follow their moves and try to further professionalize football in Indonesia.

Of course this can’t be done overnight and obviously true football passion comes from the stands, the supporters involved with the club, traveling miles and miles on the weekend to support their heroes in good & bad times. A state-owned club like Bhayangkara financially has a lot to offer but they don’t have a fan base that supports the club everywhere they go and therefore misses the allure of a real club. The steady growth of the fanatic side of Bali United shows that there is a lot of love for the game on the island and true passion for the club. The combination of good management, money to invest and a steady fanbase made it possible for Bali United to be able to compete with the traditional heavy weights within 5 year’s time.

How do you feel about the progress of Indonesian football? What should be improved to reach the next level? Leave your opinion in the comments.

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