With less than a month to go until the Arsenal squad lands in Jakarta, the final touches to long-held plans are being made. Family holidays have been shelved, extra jobs have been taken and cherished shirt collections sold as the Club’s fervent Indonesian support base mobilise themselves in preparation for the arrival of their heroes.
It will be the first time that Arsenal have played in the country since their three-match tour in 1983, and the buzz of excitement since the tour was announced is steadily building to a crescendo.
Wildly-popular promotional visits from Arsenal legends Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg, coupled with initiatives like the first-team squad’s gamelan video, have only added to the sense of anticipation. And with an internet-savvy young populace stoking the flames, this summer’s visit is expected to bring the country to a standstill.
“Suddenly I see people wearing Arsenal shirts everywhere,” fan Fahadzaki Sjadzali said. “The Club has massively loyal fans here. Last summer, the Arsenal Indonesia Supporters Club had to travel to Malaysia for the tour, and we made a huge statement with a gigantic banner we displayed there. You can only imagine what we will do in our own country!
"The day Arsenal finally announced that they would come here, the internet felt like it was going to explode! Twitter was owned by Gooners that day"
“People are talking about Arsenal’s visit via e-mails, Twitter, Blackberry groups, WhatsApp groups - everywhere basically. Some of the things we are discussing is what the atmosphere will be in the stadium, who we are going to take pictures of, what kinds of banners we’re going to have and so on. It means a lot to me - I’ve been supporting Arsenal for the last 20 years so to finally able to see them live will be a great experience.”
Fellow supporter Astrid, from Jakarta, adds: “The day Arsenal announced that they would come here, the internet felt like it was going to explode! Twitter was owned by Gooners that day. People were almost lost for words and it seemed like they couldn’t believe what they just heard.
“When I heard that Arsenal would come to see me here, I was crying with happiness. Finally, I can see with my own eyes my beloved team in my beloved homeland. Thanks Arsenal for making my dream and everyone’s dream come true. I’m sure every Gooner in Indonesia will tell their children and grandchildren about this very special moment.”
Arsenal Indonesia secretary Bernadette Kartika admits the growing excitement in the country means the supporters’ club is having to work overtime to satisfy the ever-growing demand for fresh information.
“Every day on Twitter, Facebook and our fan page we get so many questions about our preparation, how to buy tickets and how to buy meet-and-greet tickets and so on - and because of that we need to update things constantly,” she says. “There is a posting on Facebook asking people "Are you ready for the Arsenal tour?" and everyone answers it with saying, ‘Yeah! I cannot wait!’
“Almost every update from the Club has become a hot topic in digital media, print media and on TV. From Robert Pires’ arrival, the Arsenal gamelan video, Freddie Ljungberg’s visit - all of it became news.”
Her colleague, Arsenal Indonesia vice-president Jonathan Mokalu, says that by the time the Gunners squad set foot on Indonesian soil, much of the nation will be at fever pitch.
“It means a lot that Arsenal are coming over here,” he said. “Some of us may not have a chance to go to London and watch the Arsenal, so for them to see their idols in person is like a dream come true.
“Those people from other parts of Indonesia want to attend all of the Arsenal team activities in Jakarta. A big reception at the airport is a definite while many fans will be hanging around outside the team hotel. Some of the fans been trying to book the same hotel as the players, unfortunately all the rooms have been booked out by the team!
"I have heard some people are willing to cut off their daily expenses to buy flights and match tickets because many are still studying and do not have any income. The plan is that we are going to follow the Arsenal team everywhere when they are here… it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience!"
“Meanwhile, fans in nearby cities like Bandung (two hours away), Semarang (five hours) and Jogjakarta (seven hours) are planning on coming to Jakarta on rental buses. The Arsenal players are their idols - they are like rock stars. It is huge news, there will be a massive explosion of excitement when they finally arrive here.”
The nature of the country - Indonesia is made up of more than 17,000 islands - means that travelling to Jakarta to see Arsenal could prove problematic for some of the Club’s diehard fans. But when it comes to Arsenal, nothing seems insurmountable for these passionate supporters.
“People outside Java need extra money because they have to buy an airline ticket to see Arsenal, which can only happen once in their lifetimes,” Kartika says.
“They save their money each week and they can’t wait to join Arsenal Indonesia after all this time to make some noise together. Some have had to sell their jersey collections, some need to do extra jobs; they really are willing to do that just to see Arsenal.”
Another Jakarta-based supporter, Wiik, an international business officer, sums up the mood within the country.
“While Indonesia is a country with thousands of islands, Indonesian Gooners will come to Jakarta from all over,” he says. “Some of them have to travel two or three days to reach Jakarta but distance is not a problem. The excitement to meet and watch our beloved Arsenal has countered every obstacle they could face.
“I have heard some people are willing to cut off their daily expenses to buy flights and match tickets because many are still studying and do not have any income. The plan is that we are going to follow the Arsenal team everywhere when they are here… it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience!”
And it is just around the corner. Get ready Indonesia, Arsenal are coming.
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