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.
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 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.
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.