What Gianni Infantino, president of football’s world governing body FIFA, has been demonstrating in regard to Indonesia’s mishandling of a football match and its subsequent riot and stampede that killed 133 people is not only heartless and disrespectful toward the victims and Indonesian people in general but also validating and endorsing the impunity and cover-up the Indonesian government has been trying to do.
Infantino’s visit on the invitation of Indonesian government through Erick Thohir, Indonesia’s minister for state enterprises and a business tycoon, and then cozying up with Indonesian sport officials as well as allowing Indonesian football to get away from such a tragedy without punishment despite a clear violation of FIFA’s regulations, sparked questions on the possibility that there has been a special deal among them to justify and wash away such massive slaughtering, which include the killings of some 40 children, in the aftermath of a match between host Arema Malang and its archrival Persebaya Surabaya in Kanjuruhan Stadium, Malang, East Java on the dark October 1.
Given FIFA’s long history of corruption and bribery as well as Indonesia’s corrupt system, we have a valid question: how much is the price of turning such a deadly tragedy into just a problem of competition system and infrastructure?
In a time when the common sense and conscience of the Indonesian public, global world and media are condemning the Indonesian police’s excessive use of teargas as the main reason of such a massive people’s slaughtering, Infantino has gone along with the narrative created by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) that it was the stadium which should be blamed for because it has small exit doors, and the need to fix the whole infrastructure of Indonesia’s football competition.
And for that matter, the Kanjuruhan stadium must be demolished and then rebuilt even though various witnesses have testified that most of the exit doors were locked even when the match had ended, causing the stampede and many died from asphyxiation. Even a report from a fact-finding team formed by the government concluded that the “excessive” and “indiscriminate” use of tear gas was the leading cause of death.
But the FIFA chief refused to mention the use of teargas within the stadium, a clear violation of FIFA’s own regulation, and instead of handing down severe punishment or at least giving warning to Indonesia, he was enjoying playing a friendly football match with embattled PSSI Chairman Mochamad Iriawan, a retired three-star police general known also as Iwan Bule, and other PSSI officials. In several photos distributed by PSSI, Infantino was seen laughing and high-fiving the PSSI chief as if nothing had happened, forgetting that hundreds of families are still crying in grief for their loved ones.
There has been neither remorse nor regrets nor a plan to visit the families of the victims.
Previously, when Infantino was confirmed to be on board, as if it was an amazing achievement Jokowi proudly announced that there would be no sanction from FIFA for Indonesia, with the country being assured to remain as the host of next year’s U-20 World Cup joined by 24 countries from five continents.
With this scale of tragedy and victims, sanctions from FIFA should be the last thing on our mind. Who cares about playing at the international level or national pride if hundreds of people were killed? In fact, the absence of sanction will be a big loss to Indonesia because it justifies the killings. FIFA’s decision not to punish Indonesia will create a moral hazard as if 133 lives meant nothing and rampant police violence we as a nation have been struggling with was fine.
We need such sanction as severe as there is to be able to gain any lesson out of the tragedy. Also, it’s the least we can do to do justice to the fallen victims and their families.
The victims also have all the rights to know what really happened. Why the exit doors which were usually opened 15 minutes before the match ended were still closed even after the final whistle? What about the speculation that this tragedy was planned to shift away the public attention from the police’s own dirty laundries – from the killing perpetrated by its internal affairs chief Insp. Gen. Freddy Sambo, the arrest of Insp. Gen. Teddy Minahasa, East Java police chief for selling drug evidence, to several police generals’ running illegal online gambling known as the Consortium 303. Furthermore, is Kanjuruhan tragedy only a result of rivalry among police generals?
There are so many questions and mysteries in the Kanjuruhan tragedy. For this reason, Infantino must have rejected the invitation from the Indonesian government in the first place. By coming to Indonesia Infantino with his power and image as FIFA chief, has corroborated, or more precisely, has been used, in attempts to put the massive killings under the carpet.
But we believe that the killings of 133 people should be too blatant to hide and the public will not be silenced that easily. It will be another big tragedy for the nation if we give a pass to this horrendous crime and its perpetrators.