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Indonesia to demolish Malang stadium where stampede killed 133

President Joko Widodo meets FIFA head, pledges to ‘thoroughly transform’ football in Indonesia in line with the governing body’s standards.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo shakes hands with FIFA?s president Gianni Infantino during their meeting at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, right, shakes hands with FIFA boss Gianni Infantino during their meeting in Jakarta [Hafidz Mubarak A/Antara Foto/via Reuters]

Indonesian President Joko Widodo says his government will demolish and rebuild a football stadium where 133 people died in a stampede this month in one of the world’s deadliest sporting disasters.

The president, popularly known as Jokowi, was speaking on Tuesday to reporters at the state palace in Jakarta after meeting Gianni Infantino, head of world football governing body FIFA.

“Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang … we will demolish it and rebuild according to FIFA standards,” Jokowi said. “We agreed to thoroughly transform Indonesian soccer,” he added, using another term to describe football.

On October 1, fans were caught in a deadly crush as they attempted to exit Kanjuruhan Stadium in East Java province’s Malang city after the defeat of the home side Arema FC by Persebaya Surabaya. Many, including more than 40 minors, died of asphyxiation.

Following an investigation, officials concluded in a report published last week that the leading cause behind the incident was the police’s use of tear gas in the stadium – a crowd control measure banned by FIFA. The clouds of choking gas triggered the stampede as panicked spectators rushed to exit gates, which several witnesses told Al Jazeera were either locked or blocked by police.

The report also identified other contributing factors, including the stadium being filled beyond capacity, locked exit doors and a push by league officials to hold the game at night to secure better ratings for a local broadcaster, despite a request by police to hold a match between the fierce rivals during the daytime.

Jokowi said he had agreed with Infantino on significant changes to how the sport was managed in Indonesia.

The meeting between the two came after Indonesia and FIFA agreed to form a joint task force in the wake of the stadium tragedy, and as the country prepares to host the Under-20 World Cup next year.

Speaking alongside Jokowi, Infantino said FIFA’s first priority was to ensure the safety of both players and fans in the country.

“This is a football country, a country where football is a passion for over 100 million people,” he said. “We owe it to them that when they see a match they are safe and secure.”

Infantino, who presented Jokowi with a red FIFA jersey with his name on it, said the body would work closely with the government to ensure all stadiums met safety requirements, and that 2023’s Under-20 World Cup ran smoothly.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies