Biggest Rivalries In Indonesian Soccer: A Look At The Fiery Footballing Foes

Biggest Rivalries In Indonesian Soccer

Indonesian soccer is known for its intense rivalries that go beyond the pitch. Soccer fans are passionate about their teams (if you ever get the opportunity to attend an Indonesian soccer match – do it!), and the rivalries are often rooted in historical, cultural, and political differences. The rivalries can be so intense that they have led to violence and tragedies in the past.

From the capital of Jakarta, to Bandung in the west and Surabaya in the east, there are fiery rivalries all across the archipelago that belies the normal laid-back nature Indonesians are known for in Southeast Asia.

Historic Rivalries

Persija vs. Persib

Persija Jakarta and Persib Bandung are two of the oldest and most successful football clubs in Indonesia. Their big rivalry soccer match, known as Old Indonesia Derby or Laga Klasik Indonesia dates back to the 1930s and is considered one of the biggest and most intense in the country. 

On the pitch, the matches between Persija and Persib are known for their physicality and intensity. 

Off the pitch, the rivalry has often led to violence between fans, with incidents of vandalism, assault, and even fatalities reported in the past.

The rivalry between two of Indonesia’s most storied clubs turned sour during the 1990s, as Persib Bandung enjoyed a golden run, winning back-to-back league titles in 1993-94 and 1994-95.

During the same period, Persija were experiencing a downturn in their fortunes, and their fans, known as JakMania, were subjected to taunts of Jakarta Banjir, meaning ‘Jakarta is a flood city’, and, well, the flood waters in Indonesia are brown for a reason…

Sadly the rivalry has escalated in recent years, and boiled over in September of 2018, when Persija Jakarta fan Haringga Sirla, 23, travelled to Bandung to watch the derby. 

Although away fans had been banned from the fixture, Sirla travelled to Bandung, and before the game he was recognised by one of the Vikings, the ultras who support Persib Bandung. Once spotted, he was set upon by the crowd, and beaten to death as onlookers recorded the murder on their phones. 

The league was shut down for two weeks for an investigation to be carried out, and away fans are still banned from matches between these two clubs to this day.

Watch: Inside the world’s most dangerous football league

ABC’s Foreign Correspondent speaks with members of JakMania and Sirla’s family in this eye-opening documentary on Indonesia’s BRI Liga 1. Although it is overly-dramatised in parts, it is still an insightful piece of journalism.

Arema vs. Persebaya

Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya are two of the most popular football clubs in East Java province. Their rivalry, known as the Super East Java Derby, dates back to the 1980s and is fueled by regional pride and cultural differences. Arema fans represent the city of Malang, while Persebaya represents the city of Surabaya.

The matches between Arema and Persebaya are known for their passionate atmosphere and colourful displays of support from the fans. However, the rivalry has also been marred by incidents of violence and hooliganism, with clashes between fans often resulting in injuries and arrests.

In 2022, with Arema at home, officials had already tried to bring the kickoff forward (the game was kept in the prime-time Saturday night slot for TV) and banned away fans from the stadium as they feared there would be crowd trouble. 

While the match went off without a hitch, at the conclusion of the game tempers flared, as Arema lost at home to their bitter rivals for the first time in over 20 years. 

A small group of fans made their way onto the pitch to remonstrate with their players, but tragically, the situation escalated quickly as police used tear gas, in direct contravention of FIFA directives. 

Adding to the chaos, officials at the stadium had failed to unlock the gates, and fans fleeing the tear gas in the stands were trampled in the stampede. 

At least 125 people were killed and more than 300 injured in desperate scenes at Kanjuruhan Stadium, and the league was again postponed for a full investigation by East Java police and FIFA officials that saw police officers, riot police, and the police chief held ultimately responsible for the stadium disaster.

Persija vs. Persebaya

Persija Jakarta and Persebaya Surabaya have a long-standing rivalry that dates back to the 1970s. The two teams have faced each other more than 60 times, with matches often featuring heated exchanges and controversial decisions.

The rivalry between Persija and Persebaya is fueled by regional and cultural differences, as well as the clubs’ histories of success and fan support. However, the rivalry has also been marked by incidents of violence and hooliganism, with clashes between fans leading to injuries and arrests.

Many Persebaya fans live below the poverty line, and regularly travel to matches home and away without tickets, forcing their way into stadiums upon arrival. 

Their fans, known as Bonek,  are also famous for travelling on the top of regional trains, again without a ticket. Bonek is a mash-up of two words, Bondho (resource) and Nekat (reckless)…

Modern-Day Rivalries

Bali United vs. Bhayangkara

Bali United and Bhayangkara have developed a fierce rivalry in recent years. Bali United, based in Gianyar, Bali, was previously known as Putra Samarinda before being sold and moved to Bali in 2015 and has grown into one of the most popular and successful teams in the country. Bhayangkara, on the other hand, is a team with no fans, no history and questionable morals. 

In 2016 the Indonesian National Police acquired the club, renamed them Bhayangkara (a nickname for the Indonesian police) and moved them to Jakarta.

As the 2017 season progressed, both Bhayangkara and Bali United found themselves surprisingly in a title fight as the season progressed. 

With their prestigious ownership, Bhayangkara profited from multiple questionable refereeing decisions that helped keep them at the top of the table, and also experienced the amazing fortune of other teams star players being sent off the week before their match up…

The farcical season descended into comedy when with four matches remaining, Bhayangkara suffered a 1-1 draw to lowly Mitra Kukar, which saw bali United move two points clear with three matches remaining. 


Officials from the Indonesian Football Association reversed the result, and handed Bhayangkara a 3-0 victory after declaring Mitra Kukar fielded an ineligible player. The player in question had been sent off in the previous match but the governing body had not submitted the paperwork to FIFA, so it was believed the player was eligible. 

The FA stipulated that Mitra Kukar should have known of his ineligibility despite the FA not following the correct protocols, and changed the direction of the championship trophy, because in a final twist in the tale, the league was awarded via ‘head to head’ record rather than goal difference. 

Despite Bali United having a goal difference of +38 compared to Bhayangkara’s +21, Bali had lost both fixtures against their title rival, and had to settle for the runners up position after a fairytale run.

Despite Bali United, known as the Manchester United of Southeast Asia, going on to become one of the stronger teams in the league, and Bhayangkara suffering a dip that coincidentally coincided with bribe money stopping, the rivalry between these two teams shows no signs of slowing down, and fans can expect many more exciting matches in the future.

Watch: Asia’s Coolest Club? | Bali United

Persib vs. PSM Makassar

Persib and PSM Makassar have a long-standing rivalry that dates back to the early days of Indonesian soccer. Persib, based in Bandung, West Java, was founded in 1933 and is one of the oldest and most successful teams in the country. PSM Makassar, based in Makassar, South Sulawesi, was founded in 1915 and is one of the most popular teams in the eastern part of Indonesia.

The rivalry between these two teams began in the 1950s, when they faced each other in several important matches. Since then, they have faced each other dozens of times, with each match drawing large crowds and intense emotions.

Their most recent match, in February 2023, ended in a 2-1 victory for PSM Makassar, with their star player, Andri Syahputra, scoring the winning goal in the final minutes of the game. The win went a long way to securing PSM’s seventh league title as Persib suffered a dip in form after the demoralising result. 

The rivalry between Persib and PSM Makassar is one of the most heated in Indonesian soccer, and fans of both teams are known for their passionate support.

Regional Rivalries

Madura United vs. Persebaya

Madura United and Persebaya are two of the most popular football clubs in East Java. Their rivalry dates back to the early 2000s when both clubs were competing in the Liga Indonesia Premier Division. The rivalry between these two clubs is intense, and their matches are always highly anticipated by fans.

Madura United is based in Pamekasan, Madura Island, and was founded in 2016. On the other hand, Persebaya is based in Surabaya, the capital city of East Java, and was founded in 1927. The rivalry between these two teams is not only based on their geographic proximity but also on their history and culture.

Their matches are known for their intense atmosphere, with both sets of fans creating a hostile environment for the opposition. The rivalry between Madura United and Persebaya is one of the most passionate in Indonesian football.

Sriwijaya FC vs. Persija

Sriwijaya FC and Persija are two of the most successful football clubs in Indonesia. Both teams have won multiple titles in the Liga Indonesia and have a huge fan base. Their rivalry is one of the most intense in Indonesian football.

Sriwijaya FC is based in Palembang, South Sumatra, and was founded in 2004. Persija is based in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, and was founded in 1928. The rivalry between these two teams is not only based on their success but also on their cultural and political differences.

Their matches are known for their high intensity and physicality, with both teams trying to dominate each other on the pitch. The rivalry between Sriwijaya FC and Persija is one of the most historic in Indonesian football.

Liga 2 Rivalries

As with any soccer league, rivalries are an integral part of Liga 2. Here are two of the most intense rivalries in the league:

PSIM vs. Persis Solo

The rivalry between PSIM and Persis Solo is one of the oldest and most storied in Indonesian soccer. These two teams have been facing off against each other for decades, and the matches are always intense and passionate affairs. Both teams have a large and dedicated fan base, and the atmosphere at their matches is always electric.

PSIM and Persis Solo have played each other over 40 times, with PSIM winning 19 matches and Persis Solo winning 11. The remaining matches ended in draws. The two teams have faced each other in the Liga 2 several times, with each match drawing large crowds.

PSIM vs. PSS Sleman

Another intense rivalry in Liga 2 is between PSIM and PSS Sleman. These two teams are both based in Yogyakarta, and their rivalry is fueled by the fact that they are both vying for dominance in the city. The matches between these two teams are always fiercely contested, and the fans of both teams are passionate and vocal.

PSIM and PSS Sleman have played each other over 20 times, with PSIM winning 7 matches and PSS Sleman winning 8. The remaining matches ended in draws. The two teams have faced each other in the Liga 2 several times, with each match drawing large crowds.

Watch: These Asian Ultras Will Blow Your Mind

The future of Indonesia’s biggest rivalries

Indonesian soccer is known for its passionate fans and intense rivalries. From the historic Persija-Persib derby to the recent clashes between Arema and Persebaya supporters, these rivalries have often resulted in violence and tragedy.

While some argue that these rivalries add excitement and energy to the sport, others believe that they have no place in a game that should be about teamwork and sportsmanship. Regardless of one’s opinion, it is clear that the issue of soccer violence in Indonesia needs to be addressed.

Efforts have been made to improve safety and security at matches, including the use of CCTV cameras and increased police presence. However, more needs to be done to address the root causes of violence, such as fan culture and the lack of accountability for those who incite or participate in violent behaviour.

Controversy is never far away in Indonesian soccer, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino recently stripping the country of hosting rights to the 2023 Under 20 World Cup.

It is important for all stakeholders in Indonesian soccer – from every football fan at a soccer stadium to players to club owners and soccer officials – to work together to create a safer and more enjoyable environment for all at every football match. By promoting a culture of respect and fair play, and by holding those who engage in violence accountable for their actions, Indonesian soccer can move towards a brighter future.

Before you go…

Something that sparks the biggest rivalries in Indonesian soccer is the Indonesian fans known as Ultras, and we have seen some incredible displays all over Asia. 

Asian football is renowned for singing, tifo, and of course, ultras. But who are the best Asian ultras? And what makes them the best ultras? 

While you won’t find Bhayangkara on our list, check out our article covering the best Asian Ultras, you should see some familiar names…

Related Posts:

What Are Ultras In Soccer?

Why Soccer Is The Best Sport?

What Soccer Team Has The Most Trophies?


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