Indonesia police fire tear gas to keep football fans out of closed-doors match

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JAKARTA – Indonesian police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse hundreds of football fans who tried to attend a closed-doors match on Friday, officials said, four months after the country suffered one of the world’s deadliest stadium stampedes.

Tickets were sold out for the derby match between PSIS Semarang and Persis Solo but police decided on Thursday to bar spectators over security concerns, the provincial governor said, among protocols introduced after 135 people died at a game in Malang in October.

The decision angered supporters of home side PSIS Semarang, hundreds of whom gathered outside the Jatidiri stadium and were pushed back by police as they tried to enter.

Fans threw rocks at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannon, local television footage showed.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, and police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The use of tear gas is controversial after an investigation concluded that its excessive and indiscriminate use by Indonesian police back in October was the main trigger for the deadly Malang stampede.

Soccer’s global governing body Fifa bans tear gas as a crowd control measure inside stadiums.

Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo said he understood fans’ disappointment at not being able to attend and said organisers should have coordinated better with police.

“Police must have their own judgment and considerations on the security aspects,” Mr Pranowo said by phone.

Friday’s incident is another setback for Indonesia as a time of close scrutiny by Fifa and as it prepares to host the under-23 World Cup in May.

Visiting team Persis Solo is co-owned by Mr Erick Thohir, a Cabinet minister who was elected on Thursday to lead Indonesia’s football federation.

Its other owner is Mr Kaesang Pangarep, the youngest son of President Joko Widodo, who has demanded improvements in the hosting of domestic games. REUTERS

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