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Ex-Inter owner named head of Indonesian Football Association

Former Inter Milan owner Erick Thohir was named Indonesia’s football association chief on Thursday, the organisation said, several months after one of the worst stadium disasters in the sport’s history.

The 52-year-old is Indonesia’s minister of state-owned enterprises and one of the most influential figures in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

He ran President Joko Widodo’s 2019 re-election campaign, serves as Indonesian Olympic Committee chief and once owned European football juggernaut Inter Milan and DC United in the United States. His brother Garibaldi is one of Indonesia’s youngest billionaires.

He secured the majority of votes at an association meeting in capital Jakarta, it said in a statement.

“Based on the vote tally… the general chairman of the PSSI for the 2023-2027 period is Mr. Erick Thohir,” said chairman of the association’s election committee Amir Burhanuddin, according to the statement.

The sport and media tycoon replaces under-fire chairman Mochamad Iriawan four months after 135 people were killed in a stadium stampede in East Java when police responded to a pitch invasion by firing tear gas into stands packed with Arema FC’s home fans.

It was the country’s worst sporting stadium disaster. Five people including three police officers are on trial for their role in the tragedy.

An investigation team set up after the disaster called for Iriawan, the former Jakarta police chief, to step down but he refused and served the rest of his term.

He was criticised by Indonesians after the association, known as PSSI, posted images of him laughing and high-fiving FIFA chief Gianni Infantino during an impromptu football match in Jakarta shortly after the disaster.

Thohir rose to prominence in the 1990s, founding media, sports and entertainment conglomerate Mahaka Group which now owns Indonesia’s most-read Islamic newspaper.

He co-owns Oxford United as well as Indonesian premier league club Persis Solo with one of Widodo’s sons.

He will preside over the Southeast Asian nation’s hosting of the Fifa Under-20 World Cup, which begins in May.

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