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FIFA won’t sanction Indonesia over fatal crush, says Widodo

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (AP) – Indonesia’s president said the country will not face sanctions from football’s world governing body after the firing of tear gas inside a half-locked stadium caused a crush at the exits, killing 131 people, including 17 children.

Joko Widodo said FIFA President Giani Infantino wrote in a letter to him about potential collaborations between Indonesia and FIFA and the country will remain the host of next year’s U-20 World Cup joined by 24 countries from five continents.

“Based on the letter, thank goodness, Indonesian football is not sanctioned by FIFA,” Widodo said in a video posted on the presidential office’s YouTube channel late Friday.

In its security protocols, FIFA advises against the use of tear gas in or around stadiums and recommends exit gates be unlocked at all times during a game.

While those rules are considered a safety standard, they don’t apply to domestic or national leagues and FIFA has no authority over how local governments and police control crowds.

Widodo toured the Kanjuruhan football stadium in Malang city on Wednesday and said several locked gates had contributed to the disaster that followed a league game between host Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya on October 1. The national police chief on Thursday said the stadium did not have a proper operating certificate and criminal charges would be brought against six people, including three police officers.

Indonesia’s national football association has long struggled to manage the game domestically. Gaining the right to host next year’s Under-20 World Cup was a major milestone in Indonesia’s football development, raising hopes that a successful tournament would turn around longstanding problems that have blighted the sport in the nation.

People pray for the victims of last Saturday’s football stampede amid the smoke from incense sticks, at Kanjuruhan Stadium, in Malang, East Java, Indonesia. PHOTO: AP