Gelora Bung Karno Stadium
Name: Gelora Bung Karno Stadium
Address: Gelora Bung Karno Stadium,
10270 Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia
Opened: 21 July 1962
Total capacity: 88000
Home teams: Indonesian national teams
Gelora Bunq Karno Indonesia’s Maracana
Indonesia is the Brazil of Asia!” was how AFC President Mohamed bin Hammam described the abundance of footballing talent in the south-east Asian country. But if Indonesia is the “Brazil of Asia” then the Gelora Bung Karno has to be its Maracana! One of the biggest sports arenas in Asia, the Gelora Bung Karno has been the scene of some of the sport’s greatest triumphs and heartaches in this part of the world since its inauguration for the fourth Asian Games in 1962.
The 88,000-seater stadium takes its name from the first President of Indonesia, Sukarno — popularly known as Bung Karno – who was the driving force behind the construction of the sprawling sports complex which is located in the Senayan district, a stone’s throw away from Jakarta’s Sudirman business district and the Jakarta Convention Centre.
For Sukarno, an architect and civil engineet by training, the Gelora Bung Karno, when completed, had to take the form of a grand monument his people would be proud of, and after soliciting ideas from an international panel of architects, work on the project started in February 1960.
INFERNO IN 1962
But disaster struck halfway through when a raging inferno swept through the stadium and reduced one third of it to ashes on the night of 21 October 1961, forcing the government to provide more resources for its timely completion. Following intensive efforts, Sukarno was finally able to dedicate the masterpiece to the nation on 21 July 1962.
“This is one of the greatest stadiums of the world,” declared the man who, with his startlingly modern architectural insight, had managed to alter the design of the stadium to something spectacular – a single column support with wider slope for the awesome “temu gelang” or bracelet, the massive elliptical steel roof girdling the stands which also served as a canopy overlooking the ring road outside.
Another eye-catching feature is the cauldron, standing tall and proud behind the right goalpost – a reminder of the fourth Asian Games – which has been left untouched. The cauldron is supported by 27 spears representing the then 27 provinces (now 33) of the world’s largest archipelagic state.
Spread over 279 acres (136 acres for the stadium, 67 acres for government buildings and the rest for commercial buildings), it was no surprise that the Gelora Bung Karno, with its three adjoining training fields, quickly became a preferred destination for major football tournaments.
With a vast capacity of 100,000 (now reduced to 88,000 after renovations last year), the stadium has hosted several international matches and competitions, the most recent one being the AFC Asian Cup in 2007, which saw Iraq record an immensely popular and fairytale win at the Gelora Bung Karno.
The stadium has been witness to some of the Indonesian national team’s most memorable moments. It was here that the Merah Putih, as the national side is known, recorded their biggest-ever win when they thrashed the Philippines 13-1 in the 2002 Tiger Cup preliminary matches.
A last-gasp 1-0 win over arch-rivals Malaysia in the 1987 SEA Games final is another sweet moment in the annals of Indonesian football history, played out in front of 120,000 spectators at the Gelora Bung Karno.
Current Indonesia team coach Benny Dollo, who has seen plenty of action at the Gelora Bung Karno over the years, recalls one of his favourite wins. “I was then the coach of Arema Malang (a popular Indonesian league side) and we defeated Persija Jakarta in the Copa Indonesia (Indonesian Cup) final. One of my best ever victories and its memory is still vivid in my mind.”
Says Dedy, a 29-year-old football fanatic, “I have attended several matches of the Merah Putih here, and the crowd, the colours make it a great experience. The stadium is very big and when it is fully packed the atmosphere is unbelievable.”
GULLIT, PELE, RONALDO
“This stadium has so much historical value that playing here is special and brings out the best in everyone,” adds Dollo.
It was exactly this motivation which spurred Indonesia to inspirational performances in last year’s AFC Asian Cup as they roared to a 1-0 win over Bahrain in the first game, only narrowly lost to Saudi Arabia 2-1 in the second after conceding a last-gasp goal, and bowed out of the group stage following a defeat to Korea Republic by the narrowest of margins.
“The stadium derives its historicity in part from the great players who have graced the pitch here,” says Dollo, no doubt referring to the grand parade of big names at the Gelora Bung Karno over the years, including the great Pele, Ruud Gullit, Johan Cruyff and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Given that Indonesia’s tropical climate is characterised by intense downpours, wear and tear is inevitable, and the Gelora Bung Karno has undergone renovation several times. The most recent and biggest operation was mounted in the years before the 2007 AFC Asian Cup when the entire stadium received a fresh coat of paint, the stands were spruced up and a new tunnel laid out.
The second tier was also renovated with the construction of a WIP tribune, hospitality lounges and corporate boxes. Keeping in mind the needs of the local and international media, which had descended on the Indonesian capital in full force, a full-fledged media centre, media tribune and press conference room were set up.
The stadium’s multiple features have been put to innovative use by the authorities for public welfare purposes other than sports. National university entrance examinations are conducted on the terraces though, of course, the first-class pitch and other related areas can be accessed only by authorised personnel.
The Gelora Bung Karno was also former US President Bill Clinton’s favourite getaway spot for losing those extra pounds in between intense rounds of discussion during the APEC meetings in 1994.