Indonesia suspends league after death

JAKARTA • Indonesia has suspended play in its top professional football league after supporters of a rival team clubbed a fan to death with iron bars and planks, a spokesman for the country's football association said yesterday.

The decision follows the death of Haringga Sirla, a 23-year-old Persija Jakarta fan, who succumbed to his injuries after being beaten by a group of Persib Bandung supporters over the weekend.

Sunday's incident, which happened outside Gelora Bandung Lautan Api Stadium, was the latest in a spate of football-related deaths in South-east Asia's biggest nation, plunging the crisis-prone league into another scandal.

Indonesian police have since detained 16 people in connection with the killing.

There has been a string of deadly clashes between Jakarta and Bandung-based clubs in recent years and, according to figures supplied by Indonesian football watchdog Save Our Soccer, Haringga is the 70th football fan to die in match-related violence since 1994.

"We decided that we are halting the Liga 1 competition for an indefinite period of time," Gatot Widagdo, media director for the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI), told Agence France-Presse.

"We're focused on solving this problem."

He said that putting the competition on hiatus would allow for an investigation into the fatal beating and to conduct a review of security procedures among the 18 clubs in the top flight, fans and the league's operator, PT Liga Indonesia Baru.

The PSSI added that it would also consult Fifa, world football's governing body, and the Asian Football Confederation, partly as a way of avoiding sanctions.

Gatot also confirmed that results of the investigation would be handed over to the PSSI disciplinary committee in three to five days with possible sanctions.

Indonesian football has been beset by problems in recent years, including poor management and corruption allegations.

A row between the PSSI and the government prompted Fifa to ban Indonesia from all international competitions in 2015, with the suspension lifted a year later.

In the wake of Haringga's death, football analyst Akmal Marhali urged the PSSI to punish clubs who cannot control hooliganism by their fans.

"PSSI has promised it would take firm action (in the past), but nothing happened," he said. "This has encouraged football supporters."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2018, with the headline 'Indonesia suspends league after death'. Subscribe