Football tragedy: Family of victim buries a proud fan

Iwan Junaedi's children visiting their father's grave. - Reuters

MALANG, Indonesia (Reuters): For more than three decades, Iwan Junaedi was a devoted fan of the Indonesian soccer side Arema FC, barely missing a game at the club in the country's top-flight league.

But Saturday's match would be the last time the 43-year-old father of three would see his side play, as he became one of 125 victims caught up in a crowd stampede at the end of the game in the town of Malang in East Java province.

"Until the end of his life, he was proud of being an Arema supporter," said his wife Eka Wulandari.

His wife and other grieving family members held evening prayers for Junaedi this week, according to Muslim traditions.

"He had been active since 1987 when Arema was founded.... His dedication to Arema had no limit, even when he was sick, he would go," said his brother Heri Susanto.

Junaedi's family only found out he was among the victims who had been brought to hospital through a friend. An hour later, they collected his body and buried him the next day, even though they were not sure exactly how he had died.

Hospital officials have said many of the dead suffocated, as panicked fans were caught in a crush at a stadium exit after police fired tear gas to disperse home fans, who had poured onto the pitch after a 3-2 home defeat to Persebaya Surabaya.

Junaedi's wife recalls how her husband had been known as the "naughty kid" in the family, because he skipped school to go to almost every match.

"He chose Arema over his school... Arema came first," said Wulandari.

Indonesia has launched an investigation to determine what caused one of the world's deadliest stadium disasters and who was to blame.

The families of victims will each receive 50 million rupiah (about US$3,300) in compensation, though for his brother Susanto the gesture means little.

"No matter what, he will not come back to life. Life cannot be measured with money," he said.

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Indonesia , football , tragedy , Iwan Junaedi , fan


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