Indonesia president says no FIFA sanctions after stadium disaster

Joko Widodo said FIFA President Gianni Infantino had written to him about collaborations with Indonesian football.

Indonesia will not face sanctions from football’s world governing body FIFA over the police use of tear gas inside a packed football stadium that led to a stampede and crush which killed 131 people, including 17 children.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said FIFA President Gianni Infantino had written in a letter to him about potential collaborations between Indonesia and FIFA, and the country would remain the host of next year’s Under-20 World Cup joined by 24 countries from five continents.

“Based on the letter, thank God, Indonesian football is not sanctioned by FIFA,” Widodo said in a tweet and a video posted on the presidential office’s YouTube channel late on Friday night.

Widodo had toured the Kanjuruhan football stadium in Malang city, East Java, on Wednesday where he said locked gates had contributed to the deaths of 131 people following the match on October 1 between arch-rivals Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya.

After home side Arema’s loss, fans invaded the pitch and police fired volleys of tear gas to control what they described as “riots”.

The clouds of choking gas triggered a stampede as panicked spectators rushed to exit gates which several witnesses told Al Jazeera were either locked or blocked by police.

Spectators suffocated in the chaos while others were trampled to death. At least 34 people, including two police officers, died at the stadium. Many died later of their injuries.

In its security protocols for football events, FIFA advises against the use of tear gas in or around stadiums and recommends exit gates be unlocked at all times during a game.

Widodo also said the Indonesian government had agreed to take collaborative measures with FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation to improve stadium safety to prevent another tragedy.

FIFA’s Infantino would also visit Indonesia in the near future, he said.

Gianni Infantino, FIFA president, speaks at the World Innovation Summit for Health 2022 in Doha, Qatar, on October 6, 2022 [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Most dangerous

Indonesia’s national football association, known locally as PSSI, has long struggled to manage domestic football and Indonesia is known as one of the most dangerous countries in which to attend a football match.

Gaining the right to host next year’s U-20 World Cup was a considerable milestone in Indonesia’s football development, raising hopes a successful tournament would turn around longstanding problems that have blighted the sport in the nation, home to more than 277 million people.

Since last weekend’s tragedy, the domestic league has been suspended.

Widodo ordered the sport minister, the national police chief and the football federation to conduct a thorough investigation into the deadly stadium crush.

Indonesia’s national police chief on Thursday said the stadium did not have a proper operating certificate and criminal charges would be brought against six people, including three police officers.

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