Association sport

Indonesian task force wants football association chief to resign over Malang stadium disaster

JAKARTA — The task force investigating the stadium tragedy that killed 132 people in Indonesia has called on the head of the country’s football association to resign, a senior minister said on Friday.

A stampede sparked by police firing tear gas into crowded stands took place after a match between local team Arema FC and rival Persebaya Surabaya on October 1 in the East Java city of Malang.

An investigation team has been set up as anger mounts over the police response after the deaths of 132 people, including dozens of children, many of whom were killed in a crash as they rushed towards small outings.

“Technically, the government cannot interfere in the PSSI. But in a country based on morals, ethics and great culture, it is recommended that the head of the PSSI and all members of the executive committee resign as a form of responsibility”, indicates the report, given to the president. Joko Widodo, said, referring to association football.

The 124-page report was released after Indonesian Security Minister Mahfud MD held a press conference saying the association, known by its Indonesian acronym PSSI, should take responsibility for the disaster.

The investigation team concluded that tear gas was the main cause of the deaths.

Mr Mahfud said a separate team was still investigating the toxicity of the gas used. But whatever the outcome, he said, it could not “soften the conclusion that the (number of) mass fatalities were primarily caused by tear gas”.

Investigators also found that police personnel on duty had no knowledge of the ban on tear gas at football matches.

Tear gas was fired “indiscriminately” and officers used “excessive” measures, they said in their report.

Rights groups and survivors said police used excessive force to respond to a pitch invasion, while Indonesian soccer experts said the country’s most popular sport was mismanaged by officials at all levels for decades.

Mr Mahfud said the incident was more heartbreaking than previously thought, based on CCTV footage from 32 cameras reviewed by the team.

“We discovered the fact that the situation – where many victims were falling – was far more terrifying than what was seen on TV or on social media,” he said on Friday after meeting Mr Widodo.

In response to the disaster, Mr Widodo suspended all football matches until the investigation was completed and ordered a security review of all stadiums.

Mr Mahfud also charged other football players including Arema FC on Friday, accusing them of negligence.

“We also found that the stakeholders had ducked their responsibilities. They all took refuge under regulations and contracts, which are technically legal,” he said.

The investigation team also suggested that the PSSI revise its regulations to eliminate any potential conflict of interest between the police and the association. The current head of the association, Mr. Mochammad Iriawan, is the former chief of police in the capital Jakarta.

At least six people, including three police officers, have been charged in the fatal incident. AFP