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'I couldn't breathe': Fan safety under spotlight after Indonesia football match chaos kills 2

Channel News Asia - June 29, 2022

Kiki Siregar, Jakarta – It was the big football match Raihan Fauzi, 25, had been waiting for.

His hometown club Bandung Persib was about to play Surabaya's Persebaya on Jun 17. The match took place at Gelora Bandung Lautan Api (GBLA), which is Persib's homeground.

As a hardcore Persib supporter, Mr Fauzi went to the game with his distant relative and fellow hardcore fan Asep Ahmad Solihin, 29, whose nickname is Ahmad.

They arrived at the stadium at about 6pm, more than two hours before the pre-season President Cup game was scheduled to start.

"The situation was still under control at 6pm. But at about 6.30pm to 7pm, officials closed the entrance gate apparently because the stadium was already full," Mr Fauzi recounted in an interview with CNA.

Many were unable to enter the stadium although they had purchased tickets through official channels. People became angry and aggressive, as they pushed each other in order to enter the stadium, he added.

"I couldn't breathe. People were pushing me and I couldn't move. "I surrendered my life to God," said Mr Fauzi.

The night ended in chaos. Two people died, including Mr Fauzi's relative Ahmad and another die-hard Persib fan.

They are among 78 people who have died in football-related accidents in Indonesia in the last 28 years, the special staff of the minister of youth and sports Gatot Dewa Broto told CNA.

The tragedy in Bandung has again put the safety of football fans in the country under the spotlight.

Since 2019, there have been no football-related deaths in Indonesia, as the matches were held without spectators amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But as most COVID-19 restrictions have now been lifted and football matches are able to be held with spectators for the first time in more than two years, there are concerns that the Bandung tragedy will not be the last.

Analysts interviewed by CNA said authorities must take immediate action if they want to prevent further deaths.'People just stepped on us'

Prior to the match, Mr Fauzi said that he and his 29-year-old relative had purchased official tickets via Persib's mobile application.

He believed that the number of people at the stadium was more than the number of spectators allowed to watch the game, as some had managed to enter the venue even though they did not have valid tickets.

He claimed that he saw a group of around 10 people from government agencies entering the stadium without having to show their tickets.

In order to enter the stadium, fans would need to scan the barcodes on their tickets at the entrance. But Mr Fauzi said that was not enforced strictly by those who were manning the gates.

"There were even people who used tickets from previous games. I don't know why the officials did not scan all the tickets.

"Some had their tickets on their mobile phones, but others had them printed. While queueing, I saw a person holding a ticket for Persib versus Bali United (a previous match) but the match on that night was against Persebaya," Mr Fauzi said.

When the gates were closed, those who could not get in broke down an entrance gate and people began pushing each other, Mr Fauzi recalled.

"I stood in front of Ahmad and he held on to me from behind so we would not be separated from each other," said Mr Fauzi.

"Suddenly the person in front of me fell. So automatically, I also fell because I was pushed from behind and had nothing to hold me back."

Mr Fauzi, his relative and another person were pinned down by a fence which collapsed.

"But nobody helped us. Instead, people just stepped on us. I remember someone stepped on me. After that, I passed out and I don't remember what happened afterwards," he said.

He woke up at a Red Cross station near the stadium at around 9pm. Mr Fauzi then began searching for his relative but did not find him.

He decided to go to his friend's place where he had parked his motorbike and asked for help to search for Ahmad.

Mr Fauzi also took to Twitter to find his missing relative. At around 1am, he learnt that Ahmad was at a local hospital. But he was dead.

"Apparently, he ran out of oxygen. He ran out of breath because people were jostling," said Mr Fauzi.

Source: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/asia/indonesia-football-bandung-persib-persebaya-match-chaos-fans-safety-277477