Soccer-Without spectators, Indonesia holds rematch between clubs involved in deadly stampede

By - Reuters

By Yuddy Cahya Budiman

JAKARTA (Reuters) -The rematch of an Indonesian soccer game that ended in one of the world's worst stadium stampedes last year was played on Tuesday with no spectators present.

Fierce rivals Persebaya and Arema FC last met in October 2022 when the match ended in a crush in which 135 people were killed. Many died as they fled for the exits after police fired tear gas into the crowd - a control measure banned by world soccer's governing body FIFA.

"The match is without spectators, according to the permit issued by police," Persebaya said on its Instagram account.

Persebaya, who are seventh in the top-flight Liga 1 standings, won 1-0 after Muhammad Iqbal scored in the 79th minute. Eleventh-placed Arema missed a penalty in the 97th.

A Reuters photographer inside the stadium said only a few media and club officials plus security guards were sitting on the benches watching the game. Hundreds of policemen were on guard outside the stadium, some of them carrying tear gas.

The stadium is located near the headquarters of Indonesia's national police force and is surrounded by the police academy.

Speaking after the match, Arema manager Joko Susilo said some of his players were still traumatised by last year's stampede and could not play on Tuesday.

"We prepared our tactics or any technical issues but mentally it's very difficult," said Joko.

Dozens of Persebaya supporters gathered outside the stadium during the match. Riding motorbikes, they escorted a bus that carried Persebaya players exiting the stadium.

Indonesian soccer has grappled with a range of issues in recent months. In March, the country was stripped of its right to host the under-20 World Cup after outrage among politicians in the predominantly Muslim nation about Israel's participation.

FIFA then froze development funds allocated for the country's football association as a sanction.

Tuesday's Persebaya-Arema match was supposed to take place in early March but was postponed by police due to persistent concerns over fan rivalries and crowd control issues.

(Reporting by Johan Purnomo and Ananda Teresia; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor, Hugh Lawson and Ken Ferris)