October Tragedy in Kanjuruhan

The world of Indonesian football is in mourning. The Liga 1 competition that pitted Arema FC against Persebaya at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, Sunday (1/10) ended in tragedy.

Arema lost to Persebaya 2-3, fans were angry, and riots exploded into riots that killed at least 134 people.

This is the largest number of victims of the football riots in the history of Indonesian football. In fact, it is quite possible that this number is the largest in the history of football riots around the world. The number of victims in Malang is still very likely to increase, because until this morning there were still 180 people being treated at the hospital.

This tragedy is far more terrible than the Heysel tragedy in Brussels, Belgium in 1985. When it took place in the Champions Cup final between Juvenetus and Liverpool, which Juventus won 1-0. Liverpool fans rage and riot. Hundreds of people were injured by falling stadium walls and 39 died.

European football authority, UEFA, acted decisively by imposing severe sanctions in the form of a ban for all English clubs to participate in any competition at European level. It’s not just Liverpool who are sanctioned, but all English clubs. It was the Liverpool fans who were causing the trouble, but it was the entire English football club that had to bear the sanctions.

With firm and harsh sanctions without compromise, all clubs in Europe are cleaning up and managing relationships with supporters. Supporters’ organizations throughout Europe are improving by improving management and providing education to supporters who are members. The tough sanctions imposed by UEFA have a concrete deterrent effect.

In England, Hooligan supporters who are famous for being fanatical and violent are finally able to improve themselves. They then turned into a group of supporters who have high fanaticism but are no longer violent and anarchic. Likewise with the hardline group of Italian club supporters known as the “ultras”. They cleaned up and improved management, so that they managed to become a militant but not brutal group of supporters.

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In Indonesia, the tragedy of the death of a fan is very common, either due to fights between supporters or due to accidents inside or outside the stadium. However, so far the sanctions imposed by PSSI, as the highest authority for Indonesian football, have not provided a deterrent effect that could bring about a total reform in the management of supporters in Indonesia.

Before the Liga 1 competition started, there were deaths in the 2022 President’s Cup pre-season match, last June. In the match at Geloran Bandung Lautan Api (GBLA), Bandung, between Persib and Persebaya, 2 people, Persib supporters, died from falling and being trampled by other spectators.

From the match summary report, it was revealed that the riots occurred because the crowd was jostling to enter the stadium. GBLA’s capacity of 38 thousand full houses is almost 100 percent. Data revealed from ticket sales showed that the number of spectators reached 37,872 people. This means that 99.7 percent of the stadium is filled with fans.

This is a violation because the Presidential Cup rules state that the maximum stadium capacity can only be filled by 75 percent. The official statement also stated that the committee only printed 19,000 tickets per game. In reality, the number of tickets in circulation was doubled. All spectators who attended the match were known to hold official tickets.

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Violation of ticket sales procedures, and inadequate security anticipation, caused two lives to be lost. There should be an evaluation and sanctions for this incident. But it turns out that the decision taken is only a formality.

The alarm has also appeared at the Gelora Delta Stadium, Sidoarjo two weeks ago. At that time hundreds of Bonek supporters went berserk after Persebaya lost 1-2 to Rans Nusantara. Bonek supporters went on a rampage, took to the field, damaged stadium facilities, and carried out looting. As a result of this riot Persebaya had to replace the damage to the stadium up to one hundred million more. Persebaya was sanctioned 5 times playing without spectators in home matches.

The events in GBLA and Gelora Delta became alarms for the emergence of a more devastating tragedy. And the tragedy finally became a reality at the Kanjuruhan Stadium. So far, the cause of the death toll is still unknown.

It is certain that the victim died not because of a clash with Bonek Persebaya supporters, because the security forces have prohibited Bonek supporters from coming to Malang. The possibility that happened was that the supporters died of shortness of breath, because from the videos and photos circulating, it was not seen that the victims were seriously injured.

Provisional allegations state that the victim died from asphyxiation by tear gas. If it is true that tear gas was used to disperse riots in stadiums then this is a violation of the rules of FIFA, the international football federation, which does not allow tear gas to be used in stadiums. PSSI faces the risk of sanctions from FIFA if proven to have committed a violation.

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The Kanjuruhan tragedy occurred when the Indonesian football public was still enjoying the remnants of euphoria because of the impressive performance of the Indonesian national team. Two victories in the FIFA Match Day match against Curacao, last week, entertained the national football public.

At the international competition level, Indonesia is showing encouraging developments. The polish of the national team coach Shin Tae-yong managed to bring the senior national team to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup. The U-20 junior national team also qualified for the 2023 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan. The U-20 Indonesian National Team will also qualify automatically for the U-20 World Cup which will be held in Indonesia, May next year.

The October tragedy in Kanjuruhan is feared to bring sanctions that affect Indonesia’s participation in the international competition. PSSI must immediately anticipate this. Strict sanctions should be imposed on anyone who is guilty, without discrimination. A joint “fact finding” team from PSSI, Polri, and other elements must be formed to fully uncover this tragedy.

So far, PSSI has always been hesitant in making firm decisions, due to a conflict of interest within PSSI. It is common knowledge that many PSSI officials have clubs that compete in the Indonesian league. This time PSSI had no other choice but to act decisively and get rid of various conflicts of interest.

The public knows that a PSSI official has a private stake in Arema Malang. This conflict of interest must be set aside. Otherwise, PSSI will be in danger of being excluded from international football events.

*) Dr Dhimam Abror Djuraid, Deputy Chairperson of the Central Indonesian Cyber ​​Media Union (SMSI) Expert Council