JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s president says the country will not face sanctions from soccer’s world governing body after tear gas fired inside a half-locked stadium caused a stampede at the exits, killing 131 people, including 17 children .
Joko Widodo said FIFA President Giani Infantino wrote in a letter about possible partnerships between Indonesia and FIFA and that the country will remain the host of next year’s U-20 World Cup, which will feature 24 countries from five continents.
“Based on the letter, thank God, Indonesian football is not sanctioned by FIFA,” Widodo said in a video posted on the presidential office’s YouTube channel late Friday.
In its security protocols, FIFA advises against the use of tear gas in or around stadiums and recommends that exit gates be unlocked at all times during a match. While these 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.
Widodo toured the Kanjuruhan football stadium in Malang city on Wednesday and said several locked gates contributed to the mayhem that followed a league match 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 that criminal charges would be brought against six people, including three police officers.
Indonesia’s national football association, known locally as PSSI, has long struggled to manage the game domestically.
Winning the right to host next year’s Under-20 World Cup was a major milestone in Indonesia’s football development, raising hopes that a successful tournament would reverse long-standing problems that have blighted the sport in the country of more than 277 million. people.
The fatal crash is a tragic reminder, however, that Indonesia is one of the most dangerous countries in which to watch a match.
As of last week, the domestic league has been suspended. Widodo ordered the sports minister, the national police chief and the soccer federation to conduct a thorough investigation into the deadly stadium crash.
He said on Friday that the Indonesian government had agreed to take steps to work with FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation to improve stadium security to prevent another tragedy.
“FIFA, together with the government will create a transformation team for Indonesian football,” Widodo said, adding that Infantino would also visit Indonesia in the near future.
He said FIFA will be based in Indonesia during these proceedings to improve security standards at all football stadiums across the country, formulate police security procedures and protocols based on international standards, receive feedback from Indonesian football clubs and fans, to adjust the season calendar according to risk-based assessments as well as involving experts from various fields for advice.