JAKARTA — David Beckham leads the Los Angeles Galaxy in a friendly against Indonesia Wednesday but some seats in the stadium will be empty to prevent a repeat of a deadly stampede last week, organisers said.
The stampede at central Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno Stadium by crowds attempting to sneak in for a football final between Indonesia and Malaysia, left two fans dead and a boy in a coma.
“We have to learn a lesson from what happened” said Hasani Abdul Gani, director of Mahaka Sports, the firm organising the Galaxy match, but not last week’s fatal sports event at the Southeast Asian Games.
“We provide only 75,000 tickets, we didn’t want to fill all seats as comfort and safety is our priority,” he added. “We don’t want to be too greedy. The stadium should not be too packed.”
Beckham, who led Galaxy to America?s Major Soccer League championship this month and is widely expected to return to Europe with the end of his five-year US contract, is likely to be playing his last matches with the team.
Unsurprisingly, his appearance in Jakarta, part of a Southeast Asian tour, is drawing the crowds.
Ticket sales got off to a slow start but picked up briskly as fans learned from television and newspapers that Beckham would be on the Jakarta field.
Pictures of a football clinic set up by Beckham for more than 250 local children appeared in nearly every newspaper on Tuesday.
“There has been a long queue since this morning, I think all tickets will be sold out by today,” Gani said Wednesday, adding that 30,000 tickets were sold the previous day alone.
Hawkers selling T-shirts emblazoned with Beckham’s picture, or “23,” — the number he wears on the field — mingled with fans lined for tickets.
“To ensure the security, there will be 2,500 police personnel and 260 security guard” on hand, Gani said.
Beckham told reporters he was also excited to play in Indonesia.
“We’re very happy to be here, we’re very excited to play in Indonesia, it’s something that we’ve been looking forward to for a number of weeks now,” Beckham told reporters on Monday.
“It’s not my first time here. I’ve been here on holiday before, but I’ve never played here before,” he said.