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The most popular football clubs: Indonesia


Jakarta: Few places in the world can match the passion for football held by fans in Indonesia, where stadiums are regularly packed to the rafters to cheer on the Southeast Asian country's top sides.

The vast island nation's Liga 1 top flight features teams from as far northwest as Banda Aceh on Sumatra and as easterly as Jayapura on Papua, while intense rivalries often reach fever pitch.

Below we've selected five teams, based on their success over the years, as Indonesia's most popular clubs. Review the candidates and vote for your favourite at the bottom of the article.

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Persija Jakarta

A giant of the Indonesian game, Persija Jakarta are among the biggest and most popular clubs in Southeast Asia and their fans routinely fill their iconic Gelora Bung Karno Stadium to create an atmosphere like few other venues in the world. Historically, meanwhile, they are the most successful team in their country with 11 national league titles to their name.

Just two of those titles, however, have come since the turn of the millennium with success in 2001 finally breaking a 22-year drought. The capital city side then had to wait a further 17 years before being crowned champions in 2018 as they pipped PSM Makassar to top spot by just a point and their "Jakmania" fans lined the streets of Jakarta to celebrate.

That success went a long way to elevating Persija's status on the Continent as the following year they made their AFC Cup debut in a campaign that saw them twice break the tournament's attendance record. Some 62,198 fans turned up to see their ASEAN Zonal semi-final second-leg clash with Home United, but left disappointed as the Singaporean club ended the dream.

Indonesia's favourite footballing son Bambang Pamungkas is a club legend having spent the majority of his career with the side and been part of two title-winning teams, while Ismed Sofyan continues to excel after almost two decades with Persija. Goalkeeper Andritany Ardhiyasa is another loyal and popular servant, while charismatic Croatian striker Marko Simic has found a home away from home in Jakarta and is adored by the Persija faithful.


Persib Bandung

Persib Bandung form one half of the biggest rivalry in Indonesian football with their encounters against Persija – often referred to as the Old Indonesia Derby or the Indonesian El Superclásico – dating back to the 1930s. The Java side boast seven league titles to their name, with the mid-90s remaining their most successful period since forming in 1933.

More recently, the 2014 campaign was the last time Persib were crowned kings of their country when a penalty shootout victory over Persipura Jayapura ensured their most memorable moment of modern times and ended a 19-year drought since they were last Indonesian champions back in 1994-95.

On the Continent, Persib appeared in the 1995 Asian Club Championship, reaching the East Asia group stage, before making their only AFC Cup appearance in 2015. The latter campaign was a memorable run with the side topping their group unbeaten before falling just short against Hong Kong's Kitchee SC in the Round of 16.

In the popularity stakes, few can rival Atep Rizal, who made well over 200 appearances for Persib during a 10-year spell after joining from Persija. Robby Darwis was an integral part of the successful sides of the 90s and later managed the club while Djadjang Nurdjaman won titles as a player and guided them to their last championship as manager in 2014. The biggest global star to have played in Indonesia, Michael Essien, also spent a year with Persib.


Arema FC

They may not boast the history of Persija and Persib, but Arema have enjoyed plenty of success since being formed in the late 80s. Indeed, the Malang side's two league titles, back-to-back Piala Indonesia (the country's main Cup competition) and pair of President's Cups point to a healthy return as they have established themselves as one of the country's biggest sides.

Arema first tasted league glory in 1992-93, but it was a 10-year spell from 2005 that proved their most successful as they won that year's Piala Indonesia and retained their title a year later. Champions of Indonesia once more in 2010, they went on to finish as runners-up in both 2011 and 2013 although in recent years mid-table finishes have been more the norm.

One of just six Indonesian sides to have appeared in the AFC Champions League, Arema were the country's most recent representative when they participated in the 2011 group stage and earned a famous draw against China PR's Shandong Luneng. They are also one of only three teams from the nation to reach the AFC Cup quarter-finals, when they did so in 2012.

Aji Santoso was part of Arema's early success, with the defender in the side that claimed their maiden league title in 1993 while Singapore legend Noh Alam Shah was among the goals when they picked up their second league championship. In more recent times, Uruguay-born, Indonesian international Christian Gonzales proved a hit with the fans during four goal-laden seasons.


Persebaya Surabaya

Arema's great rivals, Persebaya Surabaya sit fourth on Indonesia's league title list, boasting six to their name as well as a further 10 runners-up finishes. One of the oldest teams in the country, they were first crowned champions in the 50s and most recently in 2004.

The club from Indonesia's second-largest city also won league titles in the 70s, 80s and 90s and, while it has been some time since they were last crowned champions of their country, a second-place finish behind Bali United in 2019 may hint at better things to come.

On the Continent, Persebaya were part of the 1997-98 Asian Club Championship but fell in the first round, before featuring in the 2005 AFC Champions League, where the highlight was a 1-0 victory over Vietnamese side Binh Dinh.

Both Yusuf Ekodono and Bejo Sugiantoro enjoyed long and fruitful careers with Persebaya, winning the league title in 1997, while Brazilian Jacksen Tiago was a regular on the scoresheet during two spells in Surabaya and he later managed them to the 2004 title. Garuda centre-back Hansamu Yama, meanwhile, is one of the stars of the current crop of players.


Persipura Jayapura

The most successful side in Indonesia since the turn of the millennium, Persipura Jayapura have been crowned champions of their country four times since 2005 with that trophy haul coming within an 10-year period in which they also finished as runners-up three times. No side from the country, meanwhile, has come closer to reaching a Continental club final.

Despite being founded decades earlier, it wasn't until post-2000 that Persipura truly established themselves among the big players in the Indonesian game. But Liga 1's most easterly side – whose home base on the island of Papua ensures one of the most arduous trips for visiting teams – have spared no effort in making up for lost time ever since.

They have appeared in the AFC Champions League (in 2010) but it is in the AFC Cup where they have made the biggest inroads, reaching the quarter-finals on their debut in 2011 and the Round of 16 in 2015. In 2014, meanwhile, they produced an incredible run to the semi-finals, ousting holders Kuwait SC in the last eight before elimination at the hands of eventual winners Qadsia SC.

There is no bigger footballing name in Jayapura than club legend Boaz Solossa. The Indonesian international has spent almost his entire career at Persipura, is their all-time top scorer and was part of all four of their title-winning campaigns. Eduard Ivakdalam made well over 200 appearances for the side, winning two league championships, while Todd Rivaldo Ferre is the bright hope for the future.


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Photos: Persija Jakarta, Persib Bandung, Arema FC, Persebaya Surabaya, Persipura Jayapura

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