Sun, 14 Jan 2001

League organizers hope to prevent kickoff disaster

MAKASSAR, South Sulawesi (JP): The organizing committee of the seventh Bank Mandiri Indonesian soccer league opening ceremony is working hard to avoid any disasters occurring during the nationwide televised kickoff at Mattoangin Stadium on Sunday.

The organizers chairman, Ilham Arief Siradjuddin, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday that the organizers were working with the police and military to provide special security because the Soccer Association of Indonesia (PSSI) chairman Agum Gumelar, who is also minister of communications, would officially kickoff the league.

"We don't want to experience riots during the opening, such as that which happened in the sixth league's opening in Semarang last year. Therefore, we'll ask the security personnel to tighten security. We'll also approach groups of local supporters," Ilham said.

About 400 police officers will be deployed at Sunday's opening.

"Earlier in the morning, the bomb squad will carefully and thoroughly check the stadium as a precaution before we start the opening ceremony," Ilham said.

The bomb squad is being used as a precaution after the blasts that rocked the country on Christmas Eve.

Soccer matches in Indonesia have always been colored with violence, mainly because of fanatical supporters' inability to accept their team's defeat. Agum has called on supporters to behave.

Ilham said the stadium would be ready for the opening. The organizers have upgraded the dais, roof, seats and lighting system.

The organizers said the opening ceremony, which will be aired live on state TVRI on Sunday at 4:30 p.m., will cost Rp 150 million (US$15,800).

The opening will feature Pakkanjara and Ganrang Bulo traditional dances, which will include 600 local dancers.

Ilham said the opening would contain Bugis Makassar traditional activities including Pa'raga (Makassar traditional soccer).

Defending champion PSM of Makassar will play Persipura of Irian Jaya in the opening match. (27)