Indonesian football postpones match between stadium tragedy rivals
Indonesian football chiefs have postponed a match between two fierce rivals whose last game ended in one of the deadliest disasters in the sport's history, officials said Thursday.
October's stampede in Malang city killed 135 people, including more than 40 children. It happened after police fired tear gas into packed stands when home supporters invaded the pitch at the end of a match between East Javan rivals Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya.
The tragedy forced Indonesian officials and fans to confront failings in every aspect of the domestic game, which has been blighted for years by shaky infrastructure, mismanagement and violence.
Authorities recommended Sunday's return fixture be held outside East Java and without fans, because of risks including crowd trouble, provincial police spokesperson Dirmanto told AFP.
"Persebaya and Arema supporters have a high history of rivalry," said Dirmanto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.
Fans were banned from attending football matches after the league resumed in December, having been cancelled entirely in the disaster's aftermath, but some have since been allowed back in at select games.
Persebaya failed to secure another venue and asked for the game to be rescheduled, according to a press release by the country's premier league, known as BRI Liga 1.
The fact that Persebaya's stadium is undergoing repairs -- ahead of hosting matches for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in May -- was another factor, said Dirmanto.
Liga 1 said it would announce a new date for the match soon.
Persebaya fans were banned from the initial October match because of crowd trouble fears.
Police described the October 1 pitch invasion -- after Arema lost 3-2 -- as a riot and said two officers were killed, but survivors and investigators said the police used excessive force.
Five Indonesian men including three police officers were charged with negligence after the tragedy and remain on trial.