Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Wednesday that he would order an audit of all football stadiums in the country, vowing to find the “root” cause of one of the deadliest disasters in the sport’s history.
He was in the city of Malang to visit relatives of the victims and talk to the wounded at a hospital, and to see the stadium where a stampede killed at least 131 people on Saturday.
“I want to know the root of the problem that caused this tragedy so that we can get the best solution,” he said.
“I will order the public works minister to audit all stadiums used for the (football) league,” he said outside the Saiful Anwar hospital in Malang, adding he had spoken to FIFA’s president the night before about improving Indonesia’s “football management.”
He entered the hospital to speak with several wounded patients, saying he told them to “stay spirited.”
He will then travel to the Kanjuruhan stadium, the scene of the disaster on Saturday evening, according to an official from the presidential office.
The Indonesian leader’s visit came as anger grew over police officers’ response to a pitch invasion after fans of Arema FC tried to approach players following their defeat to fierce rivals Persebaya Surabaya.
Police described the incident as a riot and said two officers were killed, but survivors accused them of overreacting.
Officers responded to the pitch invasion with force, kicking and hitting fans with batons, according to witnesses and video footage, pushing fans back into the stands where many were trampled or suffocated to death after tear gas was fired.
In response to the tragedy, Widodo ordered all matches suspended, an investigation into what happened, and compensation for victims.
Indonesia’s chief security minister said a task force had been created and that the probe would take two to three weeks.
Police said the investigation was focusing on six gates at the stadium using CCTV footage from cameras placed outside them. It said the exits were open but too small for the crowds attempting to pass through them.
But Indonesia’s football association spokesperson said Tuesday some gates that should have been opened 10 minutes before the final whistle remained closed.
They stayed shut “because of late commands” and officers “had not arrived,” he told a press conference.
The Malang police chief was replaced Monday, nine officers were suspended and 19 others were put under investigation over the disaster in the stadium, according to police. AFP
Witnesses described being shrouded in smoke, their eyes stinging as they rushed for small exit doors. Several present said police stood by and refused to help victims.
“The place looked like a mass cemetery. Women and children were piling on top of one another,” Eko Prianto, 39, told AFP.
Indonesia’s football association also moved Tuesday to sanction Arema FC, banning its organising committee chairman and a security officer from football for life and fining the club 250 million rupiah ($16,500).
Maike Ira Puspita, the association’s deputy secretary-general, told AFP the away fans were banned due to fears of fan violence and said the match passed without incident until fans entered the pitch after the final whistle.
She said the association sanctioned the club and its officials “due to the… negligence of the whole situation.”
The actions of the police were outside of the association’s scope, the official said.
“We are not going to go there,” she said, refusing to answer questions about their conduct after the match.