FIFA pledges to improve Indonesian football security after tragedy

The president of the world football board met with the president of Indonesia on Tuesday and pledged to help improve stadium security to prevent a repeat of a tragedy in which police fired tear gas at a match that killed 132 people. were killed when spectators tried to flee.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said it will bring experts and investment to improve infrastructure in the football-obsessed country of more than 276 million people because “they love football and we owe it to them that when they go to games , they are safe and secure.”

He said FIFA will work closely with the government, the Asian Football Federation and the Indonesian Football Federation to ensure the smooth running of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup to be hosted by Indonesia next year.

“My presence here is a sign of a new start for football in Indonesia,” Infantino said at a joint press conference with Indonesian President Joko Widodo. “What I can guarantee to the president, what I can guarantee to all the people of Indonesia, is that FIFA is here with you.”

The October 1 tragedy at a stadium in the city of Malang in East Java, which killed 132 people, including 43 children, was one of the deadliest sports disasters in the world. About 580 spectators were injured, the government said.

An investigation team set up by Widodo in response to a national outcry concluded on Friday that the tear gas was the main cause of the tragedy.

It said police on duty were unaware that the use of tear gas is prohibited in football stadiums and used it “randomly” on the pitch, stands and outside the stadium, causing more than 42,000 spectators in the 36,000-seat stadium to rush to the stadium. . the exits.

The investigative team, made up of government officials, football and security experts and activists, also concluded that the National Football Association, known as PSSI, had been negligent and disregarded regulations, and urged the chairman and executive committee to resign. .

Police fired tear gas at the end of the game as fans flooded the field furiously after their team, Arema FC, was defeated in a home game by rival Persebaya Surabaya for the first time in 23 years. The match was attended only by Arema fans as the organizers had banned Persebaya supporters due to Indonesia’s history of violent football rivalry.

The National Police has fired the police chiefs of East Java Province and Malang District and suspended nine other officers for violations of professional ethics.

Authorities have said they are bringing criminal charges against six people for negligence, including the head of the competition organizer, PT Liga Indonesia Baru, two Arema FC officials and three police officers who allowed or ordered officers to use tear gas. They can each face up to five years in prison if found guilty.

Despite the national passion for the sport, PSSI has long struggled to manage football in Indonesia due to its close ties to politics and years of corruption, violence and mismanagement.

Obtaining the right to host next year’s Under-20 World Cup was an important milestone in Indonesian football development and raised hopes that a successful tournament would help to overcome long-standing problems.

Widodo insisted that Indonesia will host the tournament professionally and according to FIFA safety standards.

“We agreed that this tragedy is a very important lesson for Indonesian football and also for the world,” said Widodo.

He said his government agreed to completely transform Indonesian football to ensure that all aspects follow FIFA’s safety standards.

In Jakarta, Infantino will also meet with the investigative team to discuss the results of the investigation and recommendations to the government, and to hold talks with the PSSI executive committee, which is seeking a resumption of the competition, which has been suspended since the tragedy.

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