The Indonesian stadium where one of football’s biggest catastrophes took place a year ago, in which 135 people lost their lives, remains vacant but unaltered, despite the fact that the government has pledged to dismantle it and create a safer venue.
The red and blue stands of Kanjuruhan Stadium, which are located outside of Malang city, serve as a reminder to some people of how little has changed since the October 1 stampede at Kanjuruhan Stadium, in which football fans, including 43 children, were crushed to death or choked to death.
Anton Sanjoyo, a sports journalist who was a member of the task committee that was established following the disaster, said that “there is no political will from the government or (the Indonesian football association) PSSI to improve itself.”
The nation’s most popular sport is still recovering from the pandemonium that was unleashed when police shot tear gas into packed bleachers after home fans rushed the field at the conclusion of an intense match. The incident occurred at the end of a match involving a passionate rivalry.
Following the event, the Indonesian government was encouraged to address the problems that have plagued the local game for years, including poor administration, violence, and unstable infrastructure, and to hold the event organisers responsible for their actions.
The investigative task force that Sanjoyo was a part of demanded the resignation of the head of Indonesia’s football association as well as all of the members of the organisation’s executive committee.
Instead, in the weeks immediately after the accident, PSSI president Mochamad Iriawan ignited a furor when images surfaced of him high-fiving and playing football with FIFA President Gianni Infantino. This generated a great deal of controversy.
Arema FC was fined 250 million rupiah ($16,420), and two officials were given lifetime bans for their roles in the incident. However, Iriawan, a former head of police in Jakarta, refused to step down and served out the remainder of his tenure.
The Indonesian Under-23 national team went on to win the gold medal at the Southeast Asian Games in May after FIFA made a commitment to invest more money in the country’s football organisation.
The newly elected president of the PSSI, Erick Thohir, who is also a government minister, a millionaire, a member of the International Olympic Committee, and a former owner of Inter Milan, praised the victory and proclaimed the beginning of a new era for Indonesian football.
Others, however, like the well-known commentator Pangeran Siahaan, are of the opposite opinion.
“I think that we’ve made progress, but I don’t think that it’s enough,” he added. “I believe that we’ve made progress.”
“We still have a very long way to go.”
Pundits argue that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s demands for a statewide stadium assessment in the aftermath of the accident led to changes at just a few facilities, including those that are scheduled to host the FIFA U-17 World Cup in November. This result was “far from expectations.” According to PSSI, 22 stadiums are undergoing renovations.
East Java’s Kanjuruhan Stadium, the location of the catastrophic stampede that occurred a year ago, was scheduled for destruction; however, workers have merely destroyed kiosks and stalls that were located around the stadium’s grounds.
A top minister said that the maximum capacity of Kanjuruhan is 38,000, but that 42,000 tickets were sold for the match that was a complete loss.
According to a report that was compiled by a human rights committee following the catastrophe, the administration of Arema FC estimated that the venue could hold a maximum of 45,000 people.
Witnesses said that some of the stadium gates were not even open when the crush occurred. The gates of the stadium were hardly wide enough to accommodate two individuals each.
“The security conditions of stadiums as desired by FIFA are still far from expectations, especially in stadiums that are not prepared for the U-17 World Cup,” said Sanjoyo. “This is especially true for stadiums that are not prepared for the U-17 World Cup.”
Arya Sinulingga, a member of the PSSI executive committee, said that one of the ways that safety has been improved was via the continuing restoration of 22 stadiums, as well as the installation of CCTV and the use of innovative crowd management techniques, such as the testing of face recognition technology.
Additionally, it provides training for match organisers to prepare them to satisfy FIFA’s criteria.
“We don’t want the same incident to happen again in Indonesia,” Sinulingga said in an interview with AFP. “The very important thing is, we don’t want it to happen in Indonesia.”
Concerns that the event may occur again
As the Indonesian football organisation PSSI has been concentrating on attempting to improve people’s morale, they have hardly highlighted the tragedy.
“Thohir is under the impression that he is under no responsibility to settle the Kanjuruhan dispute. Even when he met with media, he never brought up the topic of post-Kanjuruhan reform, according to Sanjoyo.
After a two-month ban in the wake of the stampede, PSSI resumed regular league play and reportedly spent $5 million to bring the reigning World Cup winners Argentina to Jakarta for a friendly match in June, which Argentina lost by a score of 2-0.
Justinus Lhaksana, a football expert and a former head coach of the Indonesian futsal national team, expressed his optimism about the future of Indonesian football by saying, “Hopefully… Indonesian football is heading in a better direction.”
“Efforts must be made by all parties in order to achieve a climate that is conducive to sports.”
But according to Sanjoyo, the most senior leaders in Indonesia are not the ones to set the example.
“There is a strong impression that President Jokowi… does not want his relationship with FIFA to be disturbed,” he stated. “This is the impression that I get.”
According to Siahaan, since the incident, there has been a growing sense of solidarity among fans, and supporters have been more careful about their safety.
However, despite the fact that away supporters have been prevented from attending numerous games because of concerns over fan violence headed by dedicated “ultra” groups, fighting has nonetheless broken out amongst rivals.
In February, police in Semarang, Central Java, fired tear gas on fans who were attempting to access the gates of a match where supporters were forbidden. However, the police officer who used the tear gas was not disciplined since the authorities claimed the incident took occurred outside the stadium.
Although no one was hurt, the incident raised concerns that a similar tragic event may occur again.
“I can only hope that the victims are always remembered and that it will be a trigger for the sports climate to be a better one,” said Lhaksana. “I can only hope that the victims are always remembered.”
“Don’t allow that to occur once again. Don’t allow them to perish for nothing.