A Feat of Tragedy

49
Dahlan Iskan
Dahlan Iskan, Former Minister of State-Owned Enterprises (SOE)

Jakarta, IO – Malang Police District had proposed moving the match to the afternoon. To start at 3:30 P.M., not at 8:00 in the evening. 

The police had in fact anticipated the vulnerabilities inherent in the situation: it was not an ordinary match. It was Malang’s Arema versus Surabaya’s Persebaya. 

Arema FC had also agreed to move the match to the afternoon. It thus sent a letter confirming agreement to the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI), in this case, the New Indonesian League (LIB), dated Sep 12, 2022. 

The reply from the LIB, dated Sep 19, 2022, stated: “The match will be held as scheduled”. That means – in the evening. The letter in reply was signed by LIB’s President Director, Ir. Akhmad Hadian Lukita MBA QWP. 

Arema, the letter said, would be asked to conduct optimal coordination with the District Police, with no details as to what “optimal” signifies. Thus the soccer match was set to take place in the late evening. 

Before sending the letter in reply, the LIB apparently held a meeting with the so-called “host broadcaster”. This organization owns the television broadcast rights for all Indonesian First League matches. This year, the First League live soccer games could only be viewed on Indosiar and Vidio. com. 

It has become clear as day – it’s all about the TV viewer ratings. TV broadcasting companies had already organized their program schedules for a year. A change in one program can disrupt other programs’ schedules. Television companies have paid a fortune to secure broadcasting rights. Agreements for commercials on all the programs had also been stamped. 

Commencing the game at 8 P.M. had been opposed all across Indonesia. Bonek, Surabaya’s Persebaya soccer fans, also protested to the PSSI regarding an evening match. And it worked. Persebaya had never played at an evening match. 

Another anticipative measure was taken by Arema: the Committee would not set aside any special seating sections for Persebaya supporters. This was a commendable step. This was the right call. This could reduce potential tension. After all, Arema supporters alone could fill the Kanjuruhan Stadium to the brim. Eyewitnesses even reported that around 20,000 spectators could not enter the stadium. 

Kanjuruhan Stadium is not located in Malang city. It is in Kepanjen, which is far to the south of Malang. It is where the capital of Malang Regency is located. The distance between Gajayana Stadium in Malang city and Kanjuruhan Stadium in Kepanjen is 25 km. 

“Kanjuruhan” was taken from the name of the 6th-century kingdom in the vicinity of Malang. The famous king of Kanjuruhan was Gajayana. 

Analysis by the police was in fact impeccable. The Committee did right by sending a letter to the LIB stating that it was not allocating any seats for Persebaya supporters. Nevertheless, a catastrophic soccer tragedy occurred anyway: more than 125 people lost their lives. It is the second highest figure in the world’s dark soccer history. It far surpassed the Heysel Tragedy, which took place when Liverpool met Juventus in the Champions Cup final in 1985, and 39 people died. The Kanjuruhan tragedy was also much bigger than the Hillsborough Disaster of Apr 15, 1989, which still horrifies people after almost 35 years. Ninety-six lives were claimed during the FA Cup final pitting Liverpool vs. Nottingham Forest in Sheffield, a neutral city. Kanjuruhan sits second after the 1964 Estadio Nacional Catastrophe in Peru, with 328 fatalities.