Badminton at Asian Games 2018: For the love of the game

Atmosphere at badminton courts in Indonesia has been surreal with fans singing non-stop.

Published: 26th August 2018 03:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th August 2018 03:56 AM   |  A+A-

Saina Nehwal in action against Indonesia’s Fitriani Fitriani during the women’s singles match in Jakarta on Saturday. Saina won 21-6, 21-14 to march into the quarters. (Photo | PTI)

By Express News Service

JAKARTA:  Terus fokus, satu titik, 
Hanya itu, titik itu, 
Tetap fokus, kita kejar,
Dan raih bintang 
(Only focus on the target, that’s the only point, keep chasing your dreams, before reaching for the stars). 
The DJ seems to have his finger on the pulse as he plays ‘Meraih Bintang’, the official song of the 2018 Asian Games. With lines like those, it’s only natural. Especially at a complex like the GBK - Istora, where the most authentic of all Indonesian sports fans congregate. 
The island nation’s singular sporting cathedral among places of mass worship: its badminton arena.


Watching Indonesia’s fans go through the entire gamut of emotions when their icons are in action is a privilege, all part of an otherworldly experience for outsiders. That experience peaked during a coruscating, bum-clencher of a match between Polii Greysia and Rahayu Apriyani and China’s Tang Jinhua and Zheng Yu. The capacity crowd had already tasted one defeat — Saina Nehwal had comfortably beaten Fitriani Fitriani in a Round of 16 encounter — and was in no mood to see another of their own go down. The Chinese duo had taken the first game 21-18 and to gee up the Greysia and Rahayu, the fans started singing. Chanting, among other songs, ‘Garuda in my heart’, an intense patriotic number. It had the necessary effect as Greysia and Rahayu came back by playing ‘two games of our lives’, to advance to the semifinals.

Singing songs, apparently, is a regular tactic used by fans. The weapon is not to intimidate opponents but to inspire their own heroes to reach greater heights. “We don’t really believe in clapping. We sing because it not only channels our adrenaline in the right way, it also sends a message to our players down there that we are there for you,” SGN Guntur, a Jakarta native, tells Express. “We get crazy for badminton but I think being crazy is worth it for this sport.”

That’s one of the best aspects about playing in front of this crowd, according to Saina. “I love playing in front of their fans because they are always up for it, irrespective of the scoreline. I love the beats of the songs they play.”They are also respectful of players on the other courts. Even as the Chinese pair was clearly flustered by their constant chirping in the third game, they stopped their song and dance for a moment to appreciate Tai Tzu-ying, the current Women’s World No 1, as she walked off the court after her Round 16 encounter. It was not just fans who gave the Indonesians a standing ovation after their victory. Even local journalists got in on the act. Damn ethics when muscle memory automatically takes over.

Was it always like this? Yudha S, a Bali-resident who is in the capital on holiday, says Susi Susanti’s ‘identity-giving gold’ at the 1992 Olympics changed everything. “We have always had a tradition of winning something but Susanti and Taufik Hidayat were the ones who truly gave us the identity of a nation known for the sport.” Yudha wasn’t joking. Obsessing over a bird and two rackets is a nation-building exercise in this country of approximately 220 million. 


The first three lines of ‘Garuda in my Heart’ go like this. 
Garuda didadaku,
Garuda kebangsaanku,
Ku yakin, hari ini pasti menang. 
(Eagle on my chest, my nationality, I’m sure, today we will win). 
Greysia and Rahayu did win in the end.


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