Indonesian President Joko Widodo has vowed to improve stadium safety and “thoroughly transform” the way soccer is administered in the country, after a stampede that claimed the lives of 132 people last month.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with FIFA President Gianni Infantino yesterday, Jokowi, as he is known, said that Indonesia would demolish the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, where the stampede took place, “and rebuild according to FIFA standards.”
“We agreed to thoroughly transform Indonesian soccer,” he said, Reuters reported. “Every aspect of preparation…needs to be based on FIFA standards.”
In turn, Infantino hailed a “new departure for football in Indonesia,” adding that the world soccer governing body would offer expert advice and investment designed to improve infrastructure across the soccer-crazed country.
He said FIFA will work closely with Indonesia’s Football Association to ensure that Indonesia’s hosting of the Under-20 FIFA World Cup in 2023 goes off without a hitch. “This is a football country, a country where football is a passion for over 100 million people,” Infantino said. “We owe it to them that when they see a match they are safe and secure.”
In the immediate aftermath of the Malang stampede, one of the worst stadium disasters on record, Jokowi ordered Indonesia’s premier soccer league suspended and instructed the authorities to re-evaluate security at soccer matches.
The stampede is believed to have taken place after police fired teargas to disperse fans who flooded the pitch in anger after their team, Arema FC, was defeated by its arch-rival Persebaya Surabaya.
An official fact-finding team, which included government officials, soccer and security experts and activists, concluded last week that the “excessive” and “indiscriminate” use of tear gas by the police had prompted a frenzied rush for the exits. The fact-finding team also concluded that the national soccer association PSSI had been negligent and ignored regulations, and urged its chairman and executive committee to resign.
According to The Associated Press, Indonesian authorities say they are also bringing criminal charges against six people for negligence, including the head of the league organizer, PT Liga Indonesia Baru, two officials from Arema FC, and three police officers responsible for the use of teargas inside the stadium.
As I noted earlier this month, the Malang stampede has highlighted systemic issues with the Indonesian National Police, specifically the proportionality of their tactics, the quality of their training, and the broader accusations of impunity and corruption that have long clung to the force.
While the latter issues are unlikely to be tackled in the aftermath of the Malang stampede, the government, provided it follows through, can at least be applauded for moving quickly to address the relevant safety shortfalls.
“We agreed that this tragedy is a very important lesson for Indonesian football and also for the world,” Jokowi said yesterday.