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Fourth Indonesian Football Fan Death in a Week Prompts Call for Match Ban

Amir Tejo | June 06, 2012
Surabaya. Authorities are calling for a ban on football matches being played in Surabaya following the death of a Persebaya 1927 fan in a stampede at the 10 November Stadium on Sunday.

The incident came just one week after three fans were killed in a brawl at a game in Jakarta between Persija and visiting Persib from Bandung, once again casting a spotlight on fan safety in local matches.

Purwo Edi Utomo, a student in Surabaya, was fleeing from tear gas sprayed by police at fans after Sunday’s game in Surabaya. Witnesses say he fell and was trampled by people trying to escape the tear gas, but police said he died of suffocation.

“Based on the [police] autopsy, the victim died from lack of oxygen and not from physical contact with police officers,” said Sr. Comr. Tri Maryanto, the Surabaya Police chief.

“We are still taking statements from other fans who saw what happened.”

In an e-mail to the Jakarta Globe, David Prendergast, a football enthusiast who was at the stadium when the incident occurred, said police abruptly fired tear gas in response to some Persebaya fans throwing plastic bottles onto the pitch after Persebaya lost 3-2 to Persija in injury time.

“[A police officer] fired his weapon indiscriminately into the crowd. Each shot produced five small tear gas canisters that spread out evenly from the center as they lobbed into an array of men, women and children,” Prendergast wrote.

“The officer’s colleagues followed suit. The crowd moved like a stormy sea — heading in one direction to avoid one canister before swerving to avoid another.”

But Tri gave another explanation for what happened, saying that unruly fans tried to get onto the pitch and police were forced to stop them by spraying tear gas.

“It was in line with our security procedures,” Tri said. “We only tried to prevent the mob from being too aggressive.”

Okto Tyson, a veteran Persebaya supporter, said Tri should have understood the nature of Persebaya 1927 fans, known as bonek , who he said typically appeared to be violent but never meant any harm.

“He should understand the character of the Surabaya people because he is also a Surabayan,” he said.

East Java Governor Soekarwo said he would discuss the Surabaya Police proposal to ban all Persebaya 1927 matches in the city, but added he was waiting for an explanation from Insp. Gen. Hadiatmoko, the East Java Police chief.

“Today I will contact him to discuss this problem,” Soekarwo said on Monday. “I’m deeply concerned about the incident.”

Saleh Ismail Mukadar, the deputy secretary general of the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI), claimed that matches in Surabaya had always been safe.

“We suspect there was a hidden agenda behind this conflict,” he said. “It’s apparent in the difficulty Persebaya had in obtaining a permit for the game.”

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