I'M LOSING IT MY WAY © Duncan Graham 2007
The photo on this page shows the face of the most despised and condemned man in central East Java. The street graffiti that demands his head is too obscene to report in this newspaper. So are the acid comments in cafes, minibuses and queues in government offices. The newspaper headlines are only slightly less unkind.
Czech Miroslav Janu is not a terrorist and bears no ill will towards Indonesia. He's a reasonable guy though understandably wary, with no apparent political or religious agenda. His crime is far more basic.
He's a loser. Or rather the Premier League football club he coaches has been losing and in Malang that's a gross and unforgivable sin.
Janu was hired to maintain the glory of Arema Malang. For the past two years the club has won the Copa Indonesia trophy under coach Benny Dollo, to become famous throughout the archipelago.
But Dollo has moved west to Tangerang and Janu, 48, has been presiding over Arema's crash and burn. In its last 12 games it has won 3, drawn three and lost six. It now ranks an inauspicious 13 in the Eastern Indonesia section of the national league.
Last week (Thur 5 April) Arema beat Solo in a minor match so the pressure has eased just a millibar or two.
"I don't want to leave, I want to stay till my contract ends in December," an agitated Janu told The Jakarta Post.
"When you win you have many friends – when you lose you're alone. People always blame the coach, not the players. I'll only go if they kick me out. This isn't about money – I have enough. Football has been good to me. This is about prestige.
"My wife was coming to join me next month, but I've told her to hold off and not by the ticket yet. Wait and see."
Arema backers are known as the nation's most fanatical. Last year the Football Association of Indonesia awarded them the title of the Best Indonesian Football Supporters.
This is clearly a new definition of 'best'. It certainly doesn't mean respectful and orderly. Arema are the original take-no-prisoners fans, and when they're on the road (every one seems to have a motorbike without a muffler) the wise steer into the nearest paddy field. Better confront the mud than the mad.
Their other name is Singo Edan, which translates as Crazy Lions. It's an apt title for the Aremaniacs.
"The supporters are a big problem," Janu said. He's been in soccer as a professional for 31 years, the past ten as a coach.
"I coached in Sabah for four years and for more than a year in Makassar, but I've never seen fans like this.
"And the media is sensational and so negative. They criticize me but some journalists don't understand the game. I say to them: 'Tell me something I don't know.'
"I'm not critical of Indonesia. I like this country. Please write a positive story."
Not so easy. Since the season started this year Arema has played in Korea, Japan, Papua and Yogyakarta – and in East Java – with anything but glory.
There are as many reasons as the warung (roadside eatery) wisemen who couldn't do up their own laces, let alone boot a ball. But this is Janu's story so he can tell it his way. First some career details:
Janu started playing when he was 17 with first division team SK Slovia Praha (Prague). He quit the field in his 30s and spent two years training to be a coach. Then he worked in his homeland, in Austria and Southeast Asia.
"When I took over Arema I didn't inherit the team that's been winning," he said. "About 30 per cent had gone to other clubs. Where do you go about finding good players, quality players in a short time?
"I don't think it's wise to import from Europe – the cultural differences are too great.
"It was just two weeks after I had a team with 13 new players (there's that number again) when the season started. That's not enough time to train and get everyone working together. If the players are young, that's OK, but others have to be flexible and settle in.
"Then there's the match schedule. We've had to play on Wednesdays, travel for two days, and then play again on the Sunday. That hasn't given us enough time to do anything more than a bit of jogging and stretching.
"Nobody likes playing like this. In Japan and Europe fixtures are usually a week apart. But these are the rules.
"Then we've had injuries, with one key player getting a broken leg."
What about the quality of the players?
"I try every day to work one-hundred per cent. I want my players to have the same standards, to improve. I tell them they must have discipline and practise, practise. This is a different job to anything else.
"When things go wrong they can't blame others. They must look at themselves first and ask: 'What mistakes have I made?' They must respect each other and respect the coach.
"Some have difficulty playing as a team. They have too much ego. This is a problem in Indonesia.
"They can't take the money as professionals, and then play like amateurs – this is the point. About 60 per cent get more money than me on their contracts.
"That's not an issue for me – I've got everything I want, home and family in Prague. Football has been good to me.
"I don't think there are communication problems with the players. (Janu speaks Indonesian). I talk to them face-to-face. And no problems with cultural differences – I've worked in Malaysia where the fans are more sophisticated. Maybe the problem here is that there are so few other sports to support."
Is he concerned that he might get assaulted by crazed zealots, or meet the same fate as Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer who was murdered in Jamaica after his team lost to Ireland in the World Cup?
Janu said no, then maybe, then chuckled nervously. He admitted it was the worse time in his career. He has no bodyguards and the hotel he lives in has no security checks.
Although Janu said he was sleeping well, unworried about events and concerned only with tactics, his body language gave a different story. When questioned about his yawning and fidgeting he said he would be behaving the same if Arema was winning.
That's a claim that can't be tested.
Arema is a soup word made up of the ingredients Arek (teenager) and Malang. It also refers to a 13th century Javanese alleged hero Kebo Arema. He was apparently a court official with no claim to footy fame.
Local fans say they are not bonek (bondo nekat – penniless soccer hooligans who bum rides to matches and trash facilities). They say the offenders come from Surabaya.
And in Surabaya they say they come from Malang.
Arema was formed in 1987. It had a rocky time financially and on the field until taken over in 2003 by the tobacco company Bentoel when serious money started to be used. The budget this year is a reported Rp 20 billion (US $2.2 million).
This gave the club the necessary kick-start and the cash to buy talent. One year later Arema became division one champions in the national league.
The club is a member of the Asian Champion League and also plays in the first division nationally. It has a 25-man squad including 3 players from Cameroon and one each from Brazil, Liberia and Chile.
Unlike most clubs in Indonesia Arema claims it gets no government backing. Jakarta recently ordered regional administrations to stop funding football; some local authorities had been using welfare budgets to pay players.
A looming problem is future sponsorship, with health authorities claiming tobacco's links with sport will have to be severed as they have in other countries. Legislation to do just this is soon to be debated in the national parliament.
(First published in The Jakarta Post 9 April 07)