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Fury at FIFA chief’s kickabout in Indonesia after stadium tragedy

Photos of FIFA’s president laughing and high-fiving in a football match with local officials weeks after a stadium disaster killed 133 people in Indonesia sparked online fury in the country on Wednesday.

More than 40 children were among those killed in the stampede on October 1, one of the deadliest disasters in football history.

Police had fired tear gas to quell a pitch invasion after a match in East Java.

FIFA chief Gianni Infantino met Indonesian President Joko Widodo Tuesday in the capital Jakarta, the pair pledging to boost match safety and rebuild Arema FC’s Kanjuruhan stadium to avoid a repeat of the disaster.

But on Wednesday morning the Indonesian football association, or PSSI, posted images on its Twitter account of Infantino playing a football match in Jakarta with its under-fire chairman Mochamad Iriawan.

“Instead of playing soccer together, it’s better to go to the homes of the victims of the Kanjuruhan tragedy together. They are more important,” Indonesian actor Vino G. Bastian tweeted to his 1.9 million followers, gaining just under 20,000 likes.

“133 people have died. And, your president came here to play fun football and laugh? Why don’t you just play fun football at Kanjuruhan? Shame on you, @FIFAcom,” popular Indonesian football account PanditFootball tweeted to its 600,000 followers, in a post retweeted more than 4,000 times.

The initial tweet by the PSSI, whose posts rarely get replies in more than double figures, was deluged with more than 4,000 replies, which were overwhelmingly negative.

Pundit Pangeran Siahaan said the officials were “extremely tone-deaf” for hosting the match.

“I can’t believe that the beleaguered PSSI and its chairman thought that the best idea to showcase its legitimacy was by being portrayed having a chuckle and kicking a football together with the FIFA president,” he told AFP.

An investigating task force last week called on Iriawan, a former Jakarta police chief, to resign over the disaster, along with the rest of the PSSI executive committee.

Football analyst Akmal Marhali, who is part of the task force, said he thought the association would take Infantino to pay tribute to victims in the city of Malang where the tragedy unfolded.

“I don’t know who suddenly decided to have fun with the football match when the graveyard soil is still wet,” he said.

The association did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Tuesday evening’s match.

Infantino’s visit came less than three weeks after he described the disaster as “a dark day” for football, and before the Southeast Asian nation hosts the FIFA Under-20 World Cup from May next year.

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