The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Indonesia to demolish stadium where more than 130 soccer fans were killed

People peek inside one of the gates at Kanjuruhan Stadium in East Java, Indonesia, where a stampede killed more than 130 people on Oct. 1. (Dicky Bisinglasi/AP)

Indonesia said it will demolish a stadium where more than 130 soccer fans, including many children, were killed in a stampede this month, as it seeks to rebuild its reputation as a safe host nation ahead of the men’s Under-20 World Cup in 2023.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo made the announcement following a meeting with the leader of soccer’s global governing body, FIFA, in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on Tuesday. The stampede at Kanjuruhan Stadium in East Java was one of the world’s deadliest stadium disasters, spotlighting crowd control tactics and safety standards in the Southeast Asian country ahead of the global competition.

“This is a football country, a country where football is a passion for over 150 million people,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said after the meeting. “We owe it to them that when they see a match, they are safe and secure.”

FIFA bars “crowd control gas” from being used inside stadiums and mandates that exit gates and emergency exits remain unobstructed at all times. It also requires event organizers to have an emergency plan in the event of a major incident and to cap the number of spectators at a level at which they can be safely accommodated.

Officials found a number of problems with the stadium, which was reportedly completed in 2004, including that there was no emergency exit that could be accessed by spectators. Some 42,000 tickets to the Oct. 1 soccer match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya were sold even though officials had wanted to cap attendance at 38,000, according to an Indonesian cabinet minister, Mohammad Mahfud Mahmodin.

Kanjuruhan Stadium wasn’t on the proposed youth World Cup lineup, but FIFA committed to supporting Indonesia in a nationwide overhaul of stadium safety measures, Infantino said. The stadium will be rebuilt to FIFA standards, according to Widodo.

Six people, including several police officers and soccer officials, face criminal charges after police fired a barrage of tear gas munitions after this month’s match, prompting a fatal crush as fans made a panicked run for the exits.

Several hundred fans came onto the field after home team Arema FC lost, 3-2, to their local rivals — and were beaten back by uniformed officers carrying batons and riot shields. At least 132 people died, and nearly 600 were injured, 96 of them seriously, according to a government report on the incident.

A Washington Post investigation showed police fired at least 40 rounds of munitions at the crowd within 10 minutes, in violation of national protocols and international security guidelines for soccer matches.

Hundreds were killed or injured in a violent clash at a soccer stadium in Indonesia on Oct. 1 after security personnel beat back fans charging onto the field. (Video: Reuters)

Many children died in Indonesia’s stadium disaster. Her 3-year-old was one.

Many fans were either trampled to death or fatally crushed against walls and metal gates because some of the exits were closed, The Post reported. The Indonesian National Police did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the investigation.

The police officers and Indonesian soccer officials could face prison terms of up to five years if found guilty of negligence for ordering or allowing the tear gas to be fired, the Associated Press reported. Human rights organizations have condemned the use of tear gas.

Infantino’s visit was scheduled after the deadly incident to discuss ways to improve safety and security measures ahead of the World Cup, FIFA said.

Infantino described the stampede as a “dark day for all involved in football.”

Rebecca Tan and Joyce Sohyun Lee contributed to this report.