I wake up and turn on the footy. I know Deledio is not playing and this is odd. The young man had played a lot of games in a row; several seasons with barely an injury or dip in form. He is tall and slender: an athletic figure in the style of Chris Judd’s. Deledio has the swagger, self-confidence and looks of a great sportsman; yet, most of the time he has been very good and very consistent. For some this has not been enough. His absence from the team, however, perhaps will indicate his contribution sometimes missed by some critics.
I have slept through most of the first quarter, but, no matter. I see the Tiges are trailing and the Dogs are up and about. It’s too easy to blame it on the venue. The Richmond supporters are thin on the ground. The Docklands stadium is a couple of kilometres from the MCG, but far away in the Tiger’s fans imagination. The second quarter is a shambles and the goals fall in. The commentators are impressed with the pressure of the Dogs. Richmond fans see only a lack of interest from their team’s players. It seems like the days from not so long ago: the punishings from Collingwood, Sydney, Geelong, St.Kilda, Carlton, whoever. Chris Newman and Joel Bowden and others staring at each other as the ball sails, yet again, between the white poles. Today the half-time damage is hardly fatal: the ground is small, the surface is slick and the opposition are yet to have established their reputation.
The next morning I wake up and it is six o’clock on a Sunday in central Jakarta. I step out from the hotel and onto Jalan Cikini. It is raining heavily. I am here for a small literary festival and I am going for my run. This should be the day of my long run, but, I know my body hasn’t adjusted to the heat and humidity, so, I will run for an hour only. A sluggish and short run is better than no run. I tell myself that I need to do it to maintain my rhythm and to feel that I am in Jakarta despite the brevity of this visit. A run to feel a part of a place.
The rain is heavier than it looked from the window on the fourth floor. I have just become a part of the rain and it feels unrelenting and as if it is spread uniformly across the Jakartan cityscape. But this is Sunday morning, car free day and I will be going back the next day. I have no time to think about how to spend my time; I must consume the city rapidly before I go back to the Soekarno-Hatta airport and back to Schipol. This is a pleasure I tell myself and it is for myself. I have time to run, time to be with my sense of what Jakarta is and to see how it moves on a slow, rainy Sunday morning.
I run along the left side of the road. There is a pavement and it is a mixed bag of holes, missing bricks and rubbish bins. Occasionally, there are stretches of smooth, uninterrupted footpath. But the meters pass quickly, even on a slow run, and the road, even if it is slightly more dangerous in terms of passing cars, at least it offers a degree of consistency in terms of smoothness. The puddles, though disguise the holes and bumps in the road and I try to land at their edges.
I run past Bakoel Koffie cafe, Holland Bakery with its kitsch windmill, Vietopia Vietnamese restaurant and towards the Aryaduta Hotel standing behind the Tugu Tani. It was there that I watched Barak Obama’s mistake riddled inauguration from one of its floors. The man who had given countless unblinking speeches slipped up on a prescribed formality. This was a significant moment in history, the commentators repeated endlessly. ‘America’s first black president’. At the time, the Jakartan taxi drivers and many others spoke of their enthusiasm for Barak. He too knew Cikini, Menteng, after having lived and gone to school there as a child. When later gave a speech at the University of Indonesia, south of Jakarta, he said, to a rapturous applause, “pulang kampung nih”, “I’ve come home”.
I turn left and run past the former US embassy – looking like the leftovers of a military campaign – and towards Jalan Thamrin: the centre of Jakarta and the meeting point for many on car-free Sunday mornings. But, it is still early and the rain is putting off those who somewhat doubtful about whether to go out for their morning run, jog, bicycle ride, or to do their aerobics. I pass a couple of teenagers running in their basketball uniforms. There is a listlessness to their gait. I feel it too: the rain, the heat, the meals I’ve eaten which I wouldn’t have eaten were I at home. My eating patterns have been disturbed by the flights, the change in cooking oils. I have found some peanut butter and some thin, sugary bread as an attempt at my standard breakfast, but, it too proves slightly off what I was looking for.
Jl.Thamrin becomes Jl.Sudirman and Sudirman’s sculpture stands erect at the street’s starting point. A still, upright and authoritative body language. There is a rise in the road – it’s not a hill – but it’s a couple of hundred meters long and it goes upwards. I run past a stretch of five star hotels. There are runners in groups, wearing their club’s t-shirts, led by their coaches in their most-up-to-date gear. Cyclists too are in their essential lycra; chatting in Indonesian, English, Russian.
I return and run through the Monas park. Here, a different set of exercises are more common: those that are contained in squares, rectangles. Tai chi practitioners perform their slow movements with the gently undulating tunes of classical music. There are perhaps a dozen different groups: some with a few members, some with a couple of dozen. How things change: up until the late 1990s, public displays of Chinese culture were forbidden. The changes brought about by reformasi have made Chinese-ness increasingly consumable and comfortable for the Jakartan cityscape. Chinese New Year decorations adorn the malls, the Chinese New Year is celebrated as a national holiday. Others do line-dancing. There are small courts for football and basketball. Joggers do laps of the park on the brick paths which feel hard beneath one’s feet.
The game ends and the Tiges are on 98 and the Dogs have the digits of one zero zero next to their name on the screen. Ah, that was frustrating, entertaining, disappointing. It was another footy game for the catalogue to be filed under ‘perhaps we really didn’t need to lose that one’, ‘lack of hunger in the first half cost us in the end’. The captain was brilliant all day and in the first half all others were hanging about somewhere in the background. The captain says a couple of days later that the team is yet to nut out how to stop other teams getting a run on. This kind of honesty is all a little unbecoming. “Well, nut it out would ya!” I feel like shouting at the screen.
This was a game of little sustenance to fans beyond the teams involved. The players played their roles – providing hope, frustration and pleasure in equal measure. The commentators got excited as usual. Another job that has trouble with honesty: so it is easy to say at the end of the Melbourne-GWS game: “well, that was a great game, it really opened up towards the end.” I found it to be a repeat but dressed-up performance of Glen Iris Gladiators under-12s versus Richmond Citizens circa 1988. Indeed, this game had no-Rioli moment of poise, balance, artistry: just Giansiracusa’s guile and Brandon Ellis’s rawness which led to the Tiges unnecessary defeat.
Brett Deledio is in a suit and hanging about the change rooms at half-time, looking out of place. Alex Rance is a guest in the commentary box – looking neat, handsome and smiling and staring straight into the camera – and he is sounding out of place. A 50meter goal from Deledio would have been welcome. Rance’s defending too, would have been welcome. But, they’re suited up, rather than bedecked in the Yellow and Black. That is the game, too. I turn it off knowing that I’ve seen a game: again I liked the new assertiveness of Griffiths, again I wondered if King’s reputation is doing all the talking rather than his playing. Brett, play next week, being in a suit during a Tige’s game, doesn’t become you.
I leave Jakarta and come back to the brief anonymity of Schipol. The festival too, was like the football game and my run. Somewhere between being and becoming, frustration and realisation.