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JAKARTA – Unstable crowds and violent fan groups have long been a hallmark of Indonesian football, reeling from Saturday’s riots in East Java. 129 people have died after Arema FC lost to Persebaya Surabaya.

The sport is the most popular in the country, drawing large crowds to violent clashes between local rivals in the top league of 18 teams, but the game is ravaged by hooligans, brutal crackdowns, and mismanagement.

With a population of nearly 275 million, Indonesia has barely lived up to its potential, failing to qualify for the World Cup since the first World Cup was held in 1938. At a time when this country was still known as the Dutch East Indies.

It has been plagued with problems on and off the field, with two rival leagues each claiming to be the country’s top division in 2015 due to government interference.

After a series of reforms, it was allowed to reopen after a year and is set to host the FIFA U20 World Cup next May after the competition was postponed for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Indonesia, which co-hosted the Asian Cup, the national team’s continental championship, in 2007, is aiming to host the 2023 edition after China withdrew earlier this year. Massive stampede at Indonesian stadium: Violence and mismanagement rampant in country’s volatile football scene

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