Indonesia moves World Cup qualifier to Bali after student rallies

Student protests against proposed new laws one of the biggest in decades. (AFP pic)

JAKARTA: Indonesia is shifting its World Cup qualifier against Vietnam to the island of Bali after the capital Jakarta was rocked by a series of at times violent student protests, the country’s football association said in a statement.

Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno stadium in the Senayan area of the city had been due to host the match on Oct 15. The stadium is near Indonesia’s parliament, which has been targeted by some of the biggest student demonstrations in decades in recent weeks.

Police have fired tear gas and water cannon to break up the rallies as thousands of protesters gathered near parliament to oppose a new law that critics say undermines the fight against graft, and a new criminal code outlawing sex outside marriage, and criminalizing insulting the president’s honour.

“Considering the demonstrations that have been taking place near the Senayan sports complex, the match will be held in the Kapten I Wayan Dipta stadium in Bali,” Indonesian football association’s (PSSI) secretary general Ratu Tisha Destria said.

Indonesia have lost their two opening games in 2022 World Cup qualifying to sit bottom of Group G which, along with Vietnam, also includes Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Malaysia.

Separately, supporters of Indonesia’s national team were involved in violence during their side’s 3-2 defeat to Malaysia in Jakarta on Sept 5.

Indonesia apologised over the trouble after Malaysia’s sports minister said the country planned to file a formal complaint to Fifa because bottles and flares had been thrown at the country’s supporters.

Despite the huge popularity of football in a nation where the representative team can pull in crowds of 90,000 and league games are often played in front of 40,000 or more, Indonesia are ranked 167th in the world by Fifa.