Indonesia to raze, construct stadium at site where scores died in stampede

Tria Dianti
Indonesia to raze, construct stadium at site where scores died in stampede Indonesian President Joko Widodo talks with FIFA President Gianni Infantino during their meeting at the presidential palace in Jakarta, Oct. 18, 2022.
Antara Foto/Hafidz Mubarak A/via Reuters

Indonesia will demolish a dilapidated stadium and build a new one in East Java province where at least 132 people were killed in a stampede after a football match earlier this month, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said Tuesday.

FIFA, international football’s governing body, said it was setting up an office in Indonesia to oversee efforts to “transform” the country’s football in the wake of the stampede, one of the deadliest disasters in the history of the world’s most popular sport.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said he and Jokowi had agreed to work together to overhaul Indonesian football by improving safety, fan behavior and infrastructure at stadiums.

“FIFA welcomed the proposal to demolish the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang and it will be rebuilt according to FIFA standards,” Jokowi said after he and Infantino met in Jakarta.

“The new stadium will be used as a model with facilities that ensure the safety of spectators and players,” the Indonesian president said. 

On Oct. 1, crowd-control police fired tear gas to disperse angry spectators who invaded the pitch at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang after a league match between host club Arema FC and rival East Java club Persebaya Surabaya. 

Smoke from the tear gas sent many of the estimated 40,000 spectators scrambling to the exit gates, causing the stampede, officials said.

Infantino said his visit to Indonesia was meant to herald changes for the sport in the football-mad archipelago nation.

“This is a country where football is a passion for over 150 million people - I would even say almost 300 million people,” Infantino told reporters. 

“And we owe it to them that when they go to see a match, they are safe and secure. And we will do that. We’ll do that because we agreed to work together as a team.” 

The reforms will focus on the operations of stadiums, fan engagement and infrastructure, Infantino said.  

“So we will bring our experts, we will help and invest and we will make sure that Indonesia shines on the global football stage,” added the president of FIFA, which next month and into December will stage the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

In 2023, Indonesia will host the FIFA under-20 World Cup, Infantino said. The tournament, scheduled to run from May 20 through June 11 was originally scheduled for 2021 but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have the under 20 [World Cup] in which the best players of the world will come to Indonesia and their talent will shine from Indonesia to the entire world. So to do this, we need 10 state-of-the-art stadiums,” Infantino said.

A fact-finding team set up by Jokowi amid a public outcry over the tragedy found that tear gas fired indiscriminately by police caused the deadly stampede. Authorities said other factors including narrow stadium gates at the exits had also contributed to the disaster.

Security personnel had also not been briefed about a FIFA regulation, which bans the use of crowd-control gas inside stadiums and had failed to abide by police guidelines on the use of force, the report found. 

In addition, the national police have sacked the police chiefs of East Java province and Malang regency, and suspended nine other officers over suspected violations of professional ethics in connection with the disaster.

Football pundit and coach Justinus Lhaksana expressed hope that FIFA’s presence in the country could spur the sport’s local governing body to make improvements in areas such as management, supervision, and grassroots development.  

“Stadiums don’t need to be demolished because it will be too expensive. All we need to do is repair them to make it easy for people to go in and out,” he told BenarNews.

Football is Indonesia’s most popular sport, and league matches are often marred by violence, especially among fans on Java, the country’s most populous island.

Watchdog group Save Our Soccer said at least 78 people had died during brawls between rival supporters since the Indonesian league in the current form was introduced in 1994.


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