Fifa will not sanction Indonesia over fatal crush at football match, says president

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FIFA; Football, Sport; Indonesia
Joko Widodo said Fifa president Giani Infantino had told him the country will remain the host of next year’s U20 World Cup. (PA Photo)

Indonesia’s president has said the country will not face sanctions from football’s world governing body after the firing of tear gas inside a half-locked stadium caused a crush at the exits, killing 131 people, including 17 children.

Joko Widodo said Fifa president Gianni Infantino wrote in a letter to him about potential collaborations between Indonesia and Fifa, adding that the country will remain the host of next year’s U20 World Cup involving 24 countries from five continents.

“Based on the letter, thank God, Indonesian football is not sanctioned by Fifa,” Mr Widodo said in a video posted on the presidential office’s YouTube channel.

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

While those rules are considered a safety standard, they do not apply to domestic or national leagues and Fifa has no authority over how local governments and police control crowds.

Mr Widodo toured the Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang city on Wednesday and said several locked gates had contributed to the disaster that followed a league game between host Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya on October 1.

The 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.

Indonesia’s national football association, PSSI, has long struggled to manage the game domestically.

Gaining the right to host next year’s Under20 World Cup was a major milestone, raising hopes that a successful tournament would turn around longstanding problems that have blighted the sport in the nation, home to more than 277 million people.

The deadly crush is a tragic reminder that Indonesia is one of the most dangerous countries in which to attend a game.

Since last week, the domestic league has been suspended. Mr Widodo has ordered the sports minister, the national police chief and the football federation to conduct a thorough investigation into the crush.

He said on Friday that 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, together with the government, will set a transformation team for Indonesian football,” Mr Widodo said, adding that Mr Infantino would visit Indonesia in the near future.

He said Fifa will oversee processes to improve safety standards at stadiums across the country, formulate security procedures and protocols for police based on international standards, take feedback from Indonesian clubs and fans, regulate the season calendar and involve experts from various fields for advice.

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