As 125 die in stadium violence, ex-Indonesia manager says fans’ passion can have devastating results

World

The rush to escape being crushed as police lose control at an Indonesian football match felt grimly familiar for Simon McMenemy.

For the last decade, the Scotsman has contended with the heated and dangerous experience of coaching in Indonesia – including as manager of the national team.

Speaking to Sky News from the southeast Asian nation, he said: “The supporters here are the best thing and the worst thing about football in this country, without a shadow of a doubt. They make stadiums electric when they’re great. They’re incredible.

“But when they’re bad it invokes a reaction – it causes a ripple effect. And, as we’ve seen last night, that can have devastating results.”

Soccer fans enter the pitch during a clash between supporters at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, Indonesia, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Clashes between supporters of two Indonesian soccer teams in East Java province killed over 100 fans and a number of police officers, mostly trampled to death, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Yudha Prabowo)
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Fans ran on to the pitch during a clash between supporters at Kanjuruhan Stadium

At least 125 people were killed in the violence that flared on Saturday night at Kanjuruhan Stadium after Arema FC lost to Persebaya Surabaya for the first time at home in 23 years.

Thousands of Arema supporters invaded the pitch and threw bottles and other missiles at players and officials. The mayhem, with tear gas being deployed by police, led to fans being trampled to death in Malang, East Java.

McMenemy, who is currently technical director at Bhayangkara FC in West Java, hopes the scale of the tragedy leads to action to prevent further tragedies.

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“I don’t think it can be swept under the carpet,” he said. “In the past, possibly it has not been looked at sufficiently. Arguably, more could have been done.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has ordered an investigation of security procedures at football.

A focus will be on the police response that “seemed quite heavy-handed” to McMenemy.

Police officers fire tear gas during a soccer match at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, Indonesia, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Clashes between supporters of two Indonesian soccer teams in East Java province killed over 100 fans and a number of police officers, mostly trampled to death, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Yudha Prabowo)
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Police officers fire tear gas in the stadium

He said: “They’re going to have to sit down and really have a good look at what’s happened here and why it happens, how it happens, and how we can make sure it never happens again.”

The passion of fans that makes working in Indonesian football so appealing to a foreign coach like McMenemy can overstep the mark requiring a crackdown.

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Over 100 die in stadium riot

Teams use armoured vehicles for travel to and from stadiums

He recalled: “I’ve experienced a lot of situations where I feel – what is going on here, why is this not being dealt with? I’ve been held under armed guard in the centre circle with these riots going on around us.

“I’ve had a full-on pitch invasion where I’ve gone over to the other bench to shake hands, and I’ve got caught on that bench by all the fans that are getting at the team’s manager that we have just beat.”

That’s why teams often have to use armoured vehicles for travelling in and out of stadiums.

Soccer fans carry an injured man following clashes during a soccer match at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, Indonesia, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Panic following police actions left over 100 dead, mostly trampled to death, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Yudha Prabowo)
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Football fans carry an injured man following clashes

But McMenemy has no plans to leave Indonesia.

“It seems strange to say, but I don’t ever feel in danger. I’m a guy doing a job,” he said.

“I don’t ever feel worried. But when you step out of that bubble, when you look back on it, you think, well, that could have gone any way.”

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