Inside the struggle to reform Indonesian football

A year on from the Kanjuruhan stadium disaster, in which 135 people died, could such a tragedy happen again?

Gate 13 where the majority of the victims died has now become a shrine
Gate 13 where the majority of the victims died has now become a shrine [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]
Gate 13 where the majority of the victims died has now become a shrine [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]

Malang, Jakarta, Indonesia - As Sandi stood watching the violence unfold on the pitch below him at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, he thought that he and other fans would at least be safe in the stands.

But he would be wrong.

It was October 1, 2022, and his team, Arema FC, had just lost at home to their bitter rivals Persebaya Surabaya for the first time in 23 years.

In an effort to guard against the fan violence that frequently plagues Indonesian football, Persebaya supporters had been banned from attending the derby, but some 40,000 Arema fans had packed out the stadium and their howls of rage and disbelief greeted the final whistle.

“There were lots of emotions floating around that night,” Sandi, 31, told Al Jazeera. “We were disappointed with the score. When Arema played, we wanted them to win. It was a point of pride for all of us in the city of Malang.”

Supporters, in small groups at first, climbed down onto the field and ran towards their team in protest, some throwing punches at the players. Stewards in lime green vests scrambled to surround players and ushered them to safety of the tunnel and the dressing rooms.

By 9:45pm, six minutes after the final whistle, more than 100 supporters had poured onto the pitch and riot police began beating them back towards the tribunes at the south end of the stadium with batons and kicks. Many fans fell as they scrambled to climb over the metal barriers and back into the stands.

The police that night were also armed with tear gas, in contravention of FIFA rules prohibiting its use in stadiums. At about 9:50pm, the police fired their first volleys of tear gas and flash-bang grenades in the direction of the fans.

“It was just chaos,” Sandi said. “I saw people whose faces were blue from the lack of oxygen. People were fainting in the tribunes next to me.”

As Sandi’s eyes burned and struggled for breath, he fled to the highest point of the 10th tribune. He took off his t-shirt, soaked it in water, and wrapped it around his nose and mouth. “I stayed there for around half an hour, just waiting for the gas to clear,” he said.

Sandi was lucky; the gas was not as thick in the 10th tribune as it was in some others, such as the 13th.

Earlier that afternoon, 20-year-old Agus Rian Syah Pratama Putra had messaged his mother to say he was going to the game, and sent her a picture later that evening of him posing at the match in front of the 13th tribune.

“It made me laugh because he was standing in such an odd position with his legs spread apart,” his mother, Rini Hanifa, told Al Jazeera.

It was the last message she would ever receive from her son.

Agus Rian Syah Pratama Putra stands with his legs apart at a football match in Malang
Agus Rian Syah Pratama Putra at the match in Malang [courtesy of Rini Hanifa]

Even in a country as football-mad as Indonesia, Arema FC are renowned for the fanaticism of their support.

Such was Putra’s love of Arema, that he had been expelled twice from schools for skipping classes to attend games.

“He had moved to the city of Surabaya for work making children’s toys. It didn’t pay much, so he sold his shoes to buy tickets for the game,” Hanifa told Al Jazeera. “He came home just to watch the game. He had been going to Arema matches since he was in primary school, and he loved them so much.”

At about 11pm that night, Hanifa received a call from a nephew in Surabaya saying that he had heard there had been trouble at the match. By 1am, Rini had heard of dozens of people being killed inside the stadium.

In the dark of night, Rini and her husband went looking for their son. They found his body at a hospital in Malang.

“His face was black and looked like it had been burned by the gas,” she said. “Why didn’t the police just use water cannons? Why did they have to poison him?”.

According to an official report by Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), an estimated 45 rounds of tear gas were fired inside the stadium and 135 people died from lack of oxygen caused by the gas and a crush as fans were caught in bottlenecks as they tried to flee the stadium’s exits.


Mobile phone footage shot from inside the exit gates showed that some of them were locked and some only partially opened, causing fans to scramble over one another to escape.

Children as young as three years old died in the arms of their parents as they desperately tried to carry them to safety.

It was the second-deadliest football stadium disaster worldwide; only the 1964 Estadio Nacional disaster in Peru – which killed 328 people – had a higher death toll.

Following the tragedy, the authorities pledged to reform Indonesian football, which - while enlivened by a vibrant fan culture - has long been marred by hooliganism, police violence, unsafe stadiums, mismanagement and corruption.

Meanwhile, investigative and legal processes have also been playing out.

INTERACTIVE_INDONESIA Stadium disaster 2022

A year on from the tragedy, Malang is still deeply in mourning.

The presence of those who died at Kanjuruhan Stadium is everywhere in Malang; in the banners strung across the city that bear their faces, in the graffiti scrawled on the sides of buildings, and in the local consciousness, cloaking the city in grief.

Many fans also feel they have been denied justice; only five people were brought to trial and given short sentences for their parts in the tragedy.

The anniversary poses questions, for Indonesian football and beyond, about how a club recovers from such a tragedy, what Arema’s future holds; about justice for the fans and the families of the victims.

And whether Indonesia football is being reformed so that nothing like this happens again.

'The Mad Lions'

Love and hate in Indonesian football

The famous Arema lion stands in front of Kanjuruhan Stadium
The famous Arema lion stands in front of Kanjuruhan Stadium [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]
The famous Arema lion stands in front of Kanjuruhan Stadium [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]

Indonesia, a country of some 270 million people, has a deeply ingrained ultras culture of hardcore football fans.

“I was genuinely blown away by the deep passion for football I encountered upon my arrival,” Robbie Gaspar, the president of the Indonesia Institute in Perth and a former professional footballer in Indonesia for eight years, told Al Jazeera.

“It was so awesome to experience and witness how stadiums across the country were consistently filled. Football, particularly the national team, has an unparalleled ability to unite Indonesia.”

But he said that Indonesian club support was more divisive.

“It offers the fans a form of escapism, allowing many of them to set aside the challenges of their daily lives momentarily,” he said.

The love for Arema FC is particularly profound.

Malang, a relatively small city of about a million people nestled towards the eastern tip of the island of Java, is dwarfed by its larger neighbour Surabaya and other more famous cities across Indonesia.

While Malang attracts tourists visiting the nearby Mount Bromo, an active volcano in the Tengger mountains and one of Indonesia’s most famous peaks, it is still a relatively marginal city.

Much of its identity has centred on its football club in recent decades.

Arema FC was officially founded in August 1987 after Indonesian Army Brigadier General Acub Zaenal consolidated the city’s several smaller clubs and helped to finance a single team that could compete with Indonesia’s best.

The name Arema was a mashup of the words “Arek Malang” or “the Youth of Malang”, designed specifically to appeal to a younger crowd. The club was nicknamed Singo Edan, or “the Mad Lions” in Javanese, as it was established in the month associated with the star sign Leo and the lion was a symbol of the east Java Singhasari Kingdom between 1222 and 1292.

The brigadier general appointed his son, “Mas Lucky” Acub Zaenal, to manage the club. Mas Lucky blasted rock music into the stadiums during the matches, rather than the staid marching music typically played by most clubs, to generate excitement.

Mas Lucky died in 2013, but his widow, Novi, told Al Jazeera that her husband wanted “a local team that would provide a sense of belonging for the people of Malang” and that brought people together.

“At the time, there weren’t a lot of other communal activities that you could do in the city,” Novi said.

“Malang was also very factionalised and people from different areas of the city would often get into fights. Mas Lucky gave them a sense of unity. People who used to fight each other were united at the stadium.”

Over subsequent years, the ownership of the club changed hands and the club went through several name changes, before again becoming Arema FC in 2017, but it enjoyed success: winning Indonesia’s top flight in 2005 and 2006, finishing runners-up in 2010 and 2016, and reaching the quarter finals of the Asian Football Federation Cup in 2012.

Arema’s main group of supporters, called Aremania, became as famous as the club – renowned for their passionate support.

“We have watched Arema since we were small and have grown up with the club,” Sandi, a member of Aremania, told Al Jazeera in Malang in mid-August.

“My grandparents used to take me to watch games, as did my parents. It is part of our culture here. We would do anything for Arema, and for each other.”

“You could go to the other end of Indonesia, to Manado in Sulawesi for example, and find an Arema supporter and they would give you anything you needed. Food, a place to stay, even if you had never met before.”

But the passion for Indonesian football clubs has also often spilled over into violence.

In 2016, a 17-year-old Persib Bandung fan named Muhammad Rovi Arrahman was beaten to death by Persija Jakarta fans, and, in 2018, Indonesia’s Premier League was suspended after the death of 23-year-old Haringga Sirila, a fan of Persija who was beaten to death by Persib fans outside a stadium.

According to the Indonesian sport watchdog, Save Our Soccer, some 78 football supporters have died in Indonesia since 1995, in addition to the 135 fans who died at Kanjuruhan Stadium.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian police also have a history of violence at large-scale public events. such as football matches and street demonstrations. where tear gas is frequently deployed as a first-line crowd control measure.

In June 2012, a football fan died after police fired tear gas at supporters at Gelora Bung Tomo stadium in Surabaya, and police officers also deployed tear gas at fans outside stadiums in incidents in 2019 and 2022.

In 2016, police were accused by supporters of beating 16-year-old fan Muhammad Fahreza to death outside a game between Persija Jakarta and Persela Lamongan when fans allegedly rioted after being prevented from buying tickets. The police claimed that Fahreza had been injured when fans fled from the police, and no charges were ever brought.

Meanwhile, stadiums have long been criticised as unsafe by fans who felt that they were often packed to over-capacity to boost ticket sales, and lacked adequate entrances and exits.

Previously, Arema FC’s Kanjuruhan Stadium, the club’s home since its inauguration in 2004, had also been criticised for being unsafe, even after renovations in 2010. When the stadium had last been audited in 2020 by Indonesia’s Premier League, several weaknesses were identified; including a lack of official stadium safety documents and no evacuation plan.

Yet, Arema continued to flourish as a club. In 2022, Arema FC finished fourth in La Liga, as the top flight had become known, and the fans had high hopes for the following season.

But the stadium disaster would change everything.

‘It wasn’t the wind that killed my son’

The battles for justice and reform

Hanifa and Putra’s younger brother who still wears his Arema shirt.
Hanifa and Putra’s younger brother who still wears his Arema shirt [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]
Hanifa and Putra’s younger brother who still wears his Arema shirt .[Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]

After the disaster, Indonesia’s top three leagues were suspended and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo ordered a safety review of stadiums around the country.

In mid-October, FIFA President Gianni Infantino travelled to Jakarta to meet with Jokowi, and pledged FIFA’s support to the country’s authorities in carrying out a comprehensive nationwide overhaul of stadium safety measures.

“This is a football country, a country where football is a passion for over 150 million people. We owe it to them that when they see a match they are safe and secure,” Infantino said after the meeting.

“FIFA is here for the Indonesian people, FIFA will stay and work here to transform Indonesian football.”

Infantino and the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) were widely criticised following the visit, when photos of FIFA’s president laughing and high-fiving while playing in a friendly football match with local football officials in Jakarta were posted to the PSSI’s social media account.

Meanwhile, Malang’s chief of police, Ferli Hidayat, was dismissed along with nine other police officers after the tragedy. A further 18 officers were placed under investigation.

In the days that followed the disaster, the police, the PSSI, and Arema FC all sought to blame each other.

At a news conference on October 10, Dedi Prasetyo, spokesman for the national police force, also said that the tear gas used at Kanjuruhan Stadium had expired, which he claimed, with little evidence, had actually decreased its effects and that the use of tear gas had not contributed directly to fan deaths.

He also said that managing the exits had been the responsibility of the match organisers, not the police.

Meanwhile, Erwin Tobing, the chairman of the disciplinary commission of the PSSI, acknowledged that some of the exits had been closed when police began firing tear gas, but claimed that workers had not had enough time to open them, despite the game having been over for about 11 minutes when the first rounds of tear gas were fired.

However, in its scathing report issued in November last year, Komnas HAM found that police tear gas had been the main cause of the tragedy.

It also found that match organisers had favoured commercial interests over safety of supporters, despite warnings from the local police who had tried to limit the number of fans attending to 38,000 - rather than the 42,000 tickets sold - and had asked for the game to be moved to an afternoon rather than an evening slot.

As part of its report, Komnas HAM also provided recommendations to the PSSI, including reevaluating all existing football match safety rules, and prioritising security and safety in football matches through statutes, safety regulations, disciplinary codes and various cooperation agreements between the parties such as match and stadium organisers.

As part of its list of recommendations, Komnas HAM also urged President Jokowi to form an independent team to audit all stadiums across the country to ensure adherence to FIFA regulations.

Kanjuruhan Stadium was shuttered and Arema FC temporarily relocated to the island of Bali, where it now plays its home games at Kapten I Wayan Dipta Stadium.

The authorities decided to demolish Kanjuruhan Stadium and rebuild it in line with FIFA standards, which is projected to take more than a year, raising questions about whether Arema FC still even has a home in Malang.

The leagues resumed on December 5, with the PSSI announcing that all matches would be held behind closed doors until the first half of the season ended.

While fans of some clubs returned in the second half of last season, Arema supporters remained banned from attending matches.

Graffiti at the stadium accuses the police of killing fans
Graffiti at the stadium accuses the police of killing fans [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]

The criminal case into all 135 deaths came to trial in March at the Surabaya District Court rather than Malang due to fears of further clashes between police and supporters.

Two civilians, security officer Suko Sutrisno and match organising committee chairman Abdul Haris, received one-year and one-and-a-half-year prison sentences respectively for negligence, including failing to carry out a proper risk assessment of the stadium.

Also in March, the presiding judge in Surabaya, Abu Achmad Sidqi Amsya, found two police officers not guilty of negligence leading to injury or death.

Amsya said that there was no evidence that either Wahyu Setyo Pranoto, the chief of operations of the Malang Regency Police, or Bambang Sidik Achmadi, the head of the Prevention Unit of the Malang Regency Police, had given orders for the tear gas to be fired.

In spite of evidence to the contrary, Judge Amsya claimed that the police had only fired tear gas onto the pitch that night, and not directly at supporters in the stands, after which it had been carried by the wind and “never reached the south stands”.

That verdict was overturned by the Supreme Court in August after the prosecution appealed, and the two men were sentenced to two and a half years and two years in prison respectively.

Another officer, Hasdarmawan, the commander of the Third Mobile Brigade Company of the East Java Police, was sentenced to one and a half years in prison for his role in the incident.

But, as well as as well as disputing the authorities’ accounts of the tragedy, families, victims and fans reject the sentences as being unduly lenient and too narrow in scope as only five people were charged.

“It was a mass killing,” Hanifa said. “We all saw the videos of what happened. It wasn’t the wind that killed my son.”

What sets the Kanjuruhan tragedy apart from many other stadium tragedies is the amount of footage available.

As the tragedy unfolded, spectators used their mobile phones to record the ensuing chaos, and press photographers on the pitch who had been there to capture the game took photographs of the police intervention, some of which clearly showed police officers firing tear gas upwards into the stands.

Hanifa disputed the official cause of death put forward by the police that all the victims were crushed to death, and believes her son was suffocated directly by the gas.

“I took off his clothes and bathed his body before we buried him. His body looked fine. His clothes were clean. If he had been crushed or trampled, surely his clothes would have been ripped and had marks on them,” she said.

Meanwhile, on the eve of the one-year anniversary, Amnesty International’s Indonesian office slammed the security forces reform process and said that the victims and their families had not received justice.

“Unfortunately, nothing has changed since that terrible tragedy,” Usman Hamid, the head of Amnesty Indonesia, told Al Jazeera.

“The legal process related to security forces firing tear gas has not yet reached their leaders at the command level. This is unacceptable, and the families of those who died and those who were injured deserve justice and accountability.”

Hamid also said that police have continued to fire tear gas at civilians - including as recently as September.

“This creates concerns that security forces have not learned from the Kanjuruhan tragedy and still tend to rely on the same tactics without considering the risks to the health and safety of civilians when dealing with civilian protests,” Hamid said.

Jacqui Baker, a fellow at the Indo-Pacific Research Centre at Perth’s Murdoch University, told Al Jazeera that the Indonesian security forces have a lot to gain from attending matches and the disproportionate use of force to justify their presence.

“The Indonesian police and others earn money from providing security to games and other events, so it is a lucrative extra income for them,” she said.

She added that the authorities working together across the police, the army and other public order agencies provided a way to foster good relations between these agencies on game days, but also meant that it was often not clear who was in charge.

Baker also said that many problems in Indonesian football stem from the PSSI and its history of corruption including match-fixing.

In 2007, the PSSI’s chairman Nurdin Halid was imprisoned on corruption charges but able to continue as the organisation’s president until 2011. The PSSI was further hit by allegations of unfair practices, misappropriation of funds and match-fixing in 2015 and 2018, which led to a number of officials being sacked and, in 2019, Edy Rahmayadi resigned as head of the PSSI amid further allegations of corruption within the institution.

“There needs to be a restoration of trust in the PSSI,” Baker said.

“It is an unreformed and corrupt institution that has been allowed to fester, but reform is in conflict with entrenched interests such as match-fixing and gambling, and leagues have had that everywhere.”

“We have to ask why some people get so violent at games,” she said. “People must be asking, ‘Am I even watching a real game?’ Can you imagine how stressful it must be to be a real football fan in Indonesia? The PSSI enables and sanctions bad behaviour.”

“Fans will clean up when the PSSI cleans up.”

The PSSI did not respond to multiple requests by Al Jazeera for comment on the reforms.

Families of the victims oppose plans to demolish Kanjuruhan Stadium
Families of the victims oppose plans to demolish Kanjuruhan Stadium [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]

Former player Gaspar said reforms were complicated and could not be easily achieved in the short term.

“It will need all stakeholders, like the PSSI, the clubs, players, fans, police, army and game day security to work together to find a solution. To collaborate and do what is in the game's best interests in the long term,” he said.

“Stadium infrastructure and facilities must be improved, sticking to capacity limits as this is when issues can occur. The safety of everyone must be the number one priority. No one should feel unsafe or be subject to violence attending a football game.”

He also added that educating and working with fans to have a zero-tolerance policy towards violence was paramount, as was training for security staff to handle potential violence and fan disturbances.

“Things will change with the new PSSI president Erick Thohir, but it will take time, and hopefully hosting tournaments like the upcoming U17 World Cup will go a long way to changing how a very small minority of the fans behave at football,” he said.

Thohir, who is now the man in charge of cleaning-up Indonesian football, was appointed in February following the Kanjuruhan Stadium disaster.

Speaking on September 15 at a football workshop session in the city of Yogyakarta, Thohir said he wanted to form an independent task force of people from outside the PSSI so that the organisation has “checks and balances”. He echoed Gaspar’s view that that change will begin when there is integrity and fairness in Indonesian football and transparency in its governance.

“I want there to be absolute openness because, if humans have power, they will become absolutely corrupt and absolutely closed off,” he said.

Muhammad Yusrinal Fitriandi, the general manager of Arema FC, told Al Jazeera that “a big push for change needs to be made” after what happened at Kanjuruhan Stadium.

“Especially from a safety perspective related to the organisation of matches, which is currently our main concern,” he said, adding that now Arema fans can again attend matches the system has changed.

“The club has responded by providing easy access for supporters by changing previously conventional ticket sales to an online system. This change also provides more protection to supporters, because ticket holders will be identified,” he said.

“We think Indonesian football is in a phase towards change for the better, of course with the support of all parties.”


Indonesia's spiciest derby tests the reforms

Fans Cinta and Hendra said that they were hopeful that the PSSI had made changes post-Kanjuruhan
Fans Cinta and Hendra said that they were hopeful that the PSSI had made changes post-Kanjuruhan [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]
Fans Cinta and Hendra said that they were hopeful that the PSSI had made changes post-Kanjuruhan [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]

On September 2, the biggest derby in Indonesian football - renowned for its passion, colour, and sometimes violence - took place between Persija Jakarta and Persib Bandung at Patriot Candrabhaga Stadium in Bekasi, a satellite city on the outskirts of Jakarta.

The match was also a test of some of the reforms put in place since the Kanjuruhan disaster, with some 27,920 spectators in attendance at the 30,000 capacity stadium as the PSSI has gradually allowed larger numbers of fans to attend matches.

As two of Indonesian football’s most successful teams, Persija and Persib’s rivalry dates back to the 1930s, but the enmity has soared from the early 2000s as supporters have frequently clashed at matches. The rivalry was even made into a 2009 Indonesian film named, Romeo and Juliet, about fans from the rival clubs falling in forbidden love.

Once again fearful of violence, the authorities only allowed Persija Jakarta fans to attend, with tickets only available online as part of new reforms to monitor fan attendance and identities. As with other games, matches are now played in the daylight rather than at night, post-Kanjuruhan, and are only allowed at weekends rather than weekdays.

The Persija Jakarta and Persib Bandung derby is known for being the biggest match in Indonesian football.
Persija Jakarta vs Persib Bandung is the biggest match in Indonesian football [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]

The roar of the crowd reverberated far outside the stadium long before kickoff. As the game kicked off, the thumping of traditional Javanese drums - described as “the beating heart of Persija” - coursed through the stands.

Fans of the club, known as “Jakmania”, waved metre-high flags in Persija colours of orange and black, making the stadium ripple as they bounced and roared on the team.

Local Jakartans, Cinta and Hendra, who declined to give their real names, told Al Jazeera that they had been dating for a year, and that Hendra had passed on his love of the game, which he first started watching as a child with his parents.

“As our love bloomed, so did my love for Persija,” Cinta said.

They added that they were not worried about any security issues with the game that day, because they believed that PSSI had now made changes post-Kanjuruhan that would prevent such an incident from happening again.

Another spectator, Rangga, who also did not want to use his real name, said that he was not worried about safety at the match as he trusted Persija fans to behave themselves, although the mood in the stadium became increasingly tense and volatile as the game progressed.

Even though only Persija fans were allowed at the derby, suspicion that undercover Persib fans had infiltrated the match still haunted the stadium. In a tribune next to the media pen, a scuffle broke out when Persija supporters claimed to have identified a rival Persib fan dressed in Persija’s colours.

“He’s not singing the songs,” fans screamed, as the insults flew and some supporters tried to step in and prevent the perceived rival supporter from being beaten.

As stadium stewards rushed to the scene and encircled the fan before removing him from the stadium, spectators appealed to each other for calm.

Trying to keep a tight grip on security at the game in Bekasi, some 2,500 personnel were stationed outside the stadium in a show of force designed to ward off any potential violence.

Police chief Dwi Haribowo said that there was no tear gas allowed inside the stadium.
Police Chief Dwi Haribowo says tear gas is no longer allowed inside the stadium [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]

Dwi Haribowo, the police chief of Pondokgede in Bekasi, told Al Jazeera that there were personnel onsite from the Indonesian Army, the National Police, the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) and the Mobile Brigade Corps (Brimob)—a special operations, paramilitary and tactical unit of the Indonesian National Police.

“We all have our respective roles, and we operate within those roles,” he said.

“After what happened in Malang, we have updated our protocols so that no tear gas is to be used inside the stadium, so that there are no further incidents,” he said.

When Persija scored, the stadium erupted in deafening chants, but when Persib Bandung equalised in the 84th minute, the mood once again soured.

Fans rained bags of liquid towards the pitch, striking several stewards in neon vests who stood guard at the perimeter.

After the final whistle, with the game ending in a draw, Persija players rested in the middle of the pitch and waited for the situation to calm down.

“They can’t go inside yet, things are too heated,” a fan in the stands named Idris told Al Jazeera. “People are looking for enemies and someone to blame.”

To guard against players being struck by missiles thrown from the stands, stewards formed a shield using a moveable seating area as players exited the pitch, although furious fans had already climbed onto the metal fences separating the pitch and stands and were making obscene gestures and hurling insults.

“Those kinds of supporters just make all of us look bad,” Idris commented.

Tensions continued to rise outside the stadium, and the authorities turned their attention to trying to extricate the teams safely.

While Persija players were able to board a team bus to leave the stadium, Persib players ducked for cover and sprinted to the open door of a waiting armoured personnel carrier known as a barracuda - which many teams across Indonesia use on game days - to avoid being pelted with projectiles and flares.

Violence also erupted outside the stadium as fans vented their anger and hunted for more “rival” supporters, before being swiftly handled by the security forces who picked off perceived troublemakers and hustled them inside the stadium offices for questioning.

The pockets of violence left several local families with children standing inside the stadium gates instead of venturing out into the streets.

Local mother Nova (centre) said that she was worried about violence at the game.
Nova, centre, said that she was worried about violence at the game [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]

Local housewife, Nova, told Al Jazeera that she had been nervous about bringing her 10-year-old son to the match in case of the risk of violence.

“He was shaking on the way here because he was scared of what might happen, but he really wanted to watch a match,” she said.

“We are waiting for our car to go home, and we thought we would stay inside the stadium perimeter until it gets here.”

“We are just waiting for things to calm down.”

‘We want justice to be number one’

Grief, anger and memory a year on

Sandi shows off his Indonesian national team shirt with Angga (right) and Adi (far right).
Sandi shows off his Indonesian national team shirt with Angga, right, and Adi, far right [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]
Sandi shows off his Indonesian national team shirt with Angga, right, and Adi, far right [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]

On August 20, Arema FC played Persija Jakarta. Sitting at the Warkopnas Distrik DPR Cafe in Malang, Sandi and his friends, 41-year-old furniture maker Adi and 29-year-old driver Angga, listlessly watched the game on a television mounted on the wall.

“This place used to be full on game days,” Sandi said, although now there were only about a dozen patrons watching the match.

When Arema scored a goal, barely anyone moved.

Sandi said many supporters have lost their enthusiasm for the game and, now that Arema no longer plays in Malang, fans watch the matches on television—if they watch them at all.

“Before, this whole place would have erupted,” Sandi added.

Angga told Al Jazeera that celebrating no longer seemed appropriate.

“The euphoria we used to feel when Arema scored a goal has gone. It doesn’t feel right to celebrate when so many people are dead,” he said.

All three men used to proudly wear their Arema shirts on game days, but now they just hang forlornly in their wardrobes at home. They won’t wear them in public any more.

“We have lost respect for the club management,” Sandi said.

“I used to be so proud to wear my Arema shirt,” Adi said. “I hope one day we will be able to enjoy Arema games again. We hope that, one day, it will be like it was before.”

Cafes in Malang are now deserted as many fans have lost enthusiasm for games
Cafes in Malang are quiet as many fans have lost enthusiasm for the games [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]

The three men are not able to really articulate what it would take for Arema FC to be rehabilitated, although they felt that the legal proceedings and sentences of those involved were not robust enough.

“Why were only five people charged?” Adi said. “Why has no one been held fully accountable for what happened?”

Sandi echoed this sentiment, saying that more people should have been charged in the criminal case in Surabaya, including additional police officers on the pitch and match and stadium organisers.

“We no longer care about Arema being first in the league,” he said. “We want justice to be number one.”

All three have now diverted their love of the club elsewhere—to Indonesia’s national team which represents the country at international matches.

In place of his usual blue Arema strip, Sandi was wearing a maroon Indonesian national football shirt.

“We will support them instead,” he said.

Graffiti scrawled on buildings at the stadium express a lack of justice following the tragedy.
Graffiti scrawled on buildings at the stadium expresses a lack of justice following the tragedy [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]

Meanwhile, on the first anniversary of the tragedy, Hanifa said that she is planning to hold a small prayer vigil with her family for Putra at his graveside.

Across Malang, a wider prayer vigil, which Hanifa will also attend, is being planned.

“We will pray together and light a thousand candles for those who died,” she said. “Then we will go in a convoy and drive to Kanjuruhan Stadium. Everyone should come and see for themselves what happened there.”

While the criminal cases in Surabaya have concluded, giving the green light for Kanjuruhan Stadium to be demolished, there are several civil cases working their way through the courts in Malang that aim to secure some financial compensation for the families.

At the end of September, work began to dismantle the stadium, something that many of the families, including Hanifa, have been critical about while the civil cases continue, as it may mean that vital evidence could be lost forever.

Amnesty’s Hamid added that “the demolition and restoration of the stadium will not be able to bury the deep wounds experienced by the families of the victims who died and those who were injured as a result of the Kanjuruhan tragedy”.

For now, it is not clear exactly when the new stadium will be completed and when Arema FC will be able to return to its home city.

Even if the club is once again able to play matches at the stadium, there are some in Malang who find the idea distasteful given the number of people who died there and their memories.

“I wanted Kanjuruhan Stadium to be turned into a museum or memorial so that this tragedy will never be forgotten,” Hanifa said.

“But I don’t know if that will happen now.”

Source: Al Jazeera