Indonesia delays 'risky' rematch of game hit by deadly stampede

Indonesia delays 'risky' rematch of game hit by deadly stampede

JAKARTA (Reuters) - The rematch of an Indonesian soccer game that ended in one of the sport's worst stadium stampedes has been postponed due to the risk of further crowd trouble, police said on Thursday.

The October 2022 derby match in Malang, East Java, between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya saw 135 spectators killed, many crushed as they fled for exits after police fired tear gas into the crowd. Home side Arema lost the match 3-2.

Although their next league meeting was due to be played behind closed doors on Sunday, Dirmanto, a spokeperson for East Java police, said it was deemed high risk as the clubs "have a history of rivalry".

Yahya Alkatiri, manager of home side Persebaya said the game was due to be held in nearby Gresik, but police permission to host it was denied. They could not play in Surabaya because of ongoing stadium upgrades for the Under-20 World Cup in May.

"This was a match fraught with risks," Yahya told Reuters, adding scuffles could happen outside the stadium.

Indonesian soccer has long been blighted by problems, including match-fixing scandals and crowd trouble between rival supporters, which has resulted in some matches being played behind closed doors.

At another game in Central Java last month, police used tear gas to stop fans from forcibly entering a stadium during a closed-doors derby match.

Investigators concluded the main cause of the crush that killed 135 people last year was excessive and indiscriminate use of tear gas, which world governing body FIFA bans as a crowd control measure.

(Reporting by Stanley Widianto and Ananda Teresia; Editing by Martin Petty)