At least 125 people were killed in chaos and violence during an Indonesian league soccer match early Sunday morning, according to Indonesia’s national police chief. the world’s deadliest stadium disasters of all time.
Supporters of Arema FC, two of Indonesia’s biggest football teams, and rivals Persebaya Surabaya clashed in the stands after home team Arema FC lost 3-2 in Malang, East Java.
East Java police chief Nico Afinta said at a press conference after the event that supporters of the losing team then “took over” the pitch and police fired tear gas, crushing fans that led to suffocation.
Two police officers were among the dead, he said, adding that the crush happened when fans ran to the exit gate.
According to Indonesian authorities, more than 300 people were injured, with the death toll feared to rise.
On Sunday morning, the governor of East Java province, where the incident took place, said that the number of dead was 131 people. Chief of the National Police, Listyo Sigit Prabowo clarified the inconsistency of the previous high numbers and said that this is due to the fact that some losses were registered twice.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, ordered the suspension of all league games on Sunday pending an investigation.
“I specifically asked the police chief to investigate and get to the bottom of this case,” Jokowi said in a televised speech. Sports, humanity and brotherhood must be protected in Indonesia.”
“I regret this tragedy and hope it will be the last incident in Indonesian football. We can’t have more in the future.”
Late into the night, videos taken from inside the stadium and shared on social media showed fans dressed in red and blue storming the pitch and clashing with Indonesian security forces.
Reuters reports that video footage broadcast on local news channels also showed images of body bags.
Smoke from what appeared to be tear gas was also seen later videos, several people are shown being taken to the building. Authorities said many people were admitted to nearby hospitals with “lack of oxygen and shortness of breath.”
Located in East Java, Kanjuruhan Stadium is mainly used for football matches – it has a full capacity of 38,000 spectators.
According to ministry officials, 42,000 tickets were issued for Saturday’s game.
“We were expecting (big) numbers and suggested the game be held in the afternoon, but it went ahead in the evening,” Indonesia’s Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD said in a post on his official social media accounts.
He added that the stadium was “full beyond its maximum capacity”.
“Our proposals were not fulfilled. I would also like to emphasize that the supporters on the field were supporters of Arema FK”.
Matches in Indonesia have previously been troubled, with strong rivalries between clubs sometimes leading to violence between supporters.
“All sports clubs competing between the two cities (in Indonesia) are always tense,” Indonesian football analyst Dex Glenniza told CNN, adding that Arema and Persebaya supporters are “forbidden” to visit each other’s stadiums.
“(This) is to prevent friction and clashes between supporters,” he said. “But there are still many incidents among supporters, most of them outside the field.”
Police chief Listo said officers would look into the organizational situation and security during the match and that a number of specialized units had been dispatched to investigate the incident. According to him, the police officers who were on duty at the time of the incident will also be investigated during the investigation.
With Indonesia set to host next year’s Under-20 World Cup and bid for the 2023 Asian Cup, the country is now under global scrutiny.
Observers note that the death toll from the Kanjuruhan Stadium disaster has surpassed other global football disasters such as the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium tragedy in Sheffield, England, which resulted in the crushing of 96 Liverpool fans.
Criticism of the police’s handling of Saturday’s incident is also mounting. In a statement released on Sunday, watchdog group Indonesia Police Watch (IPW) called for the prosecution and “removal” of Malang police chief Ferli Hidayat.
“This is the worst incident in Indonesian football. The police chief should be ashamed and resign,” IPW said.
“The death toll should be thoroughly investigated and President Jokowi should pay attention,” he added.
Amnesty International’s Indonesian lawyer in exile Veronica Koman condemned the use of tear gas by the police.
“The misuse of tear gas by the police is illegal and amounts to torture,” he said.
“Tear gas is illegal in war – so why is it still legal for domestic use?”
The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) suspended matches next week and banned Arema FC from playing games for the rest of the season as a result of the deadly tragedy.
“PSSI regrets the actions of Aremania supporters at the Kanjuruhan Stadium,” association chairman Mochamad Iriavan said in a statement on Sunday.
He added that the incident had “tarnished the image of Indonesian football” and that they supported an official investigation into the incident.
“We apologize and apologize to the families of the victims and all parties involved in the incident,” he said.
“For this, PSSI immediately formed an investigation team and immediately went to Malanga,” he said.
FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, offered its condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims, calling the incident “a dark day for everyone involved in soccer and an understandable tragedy.”
“Together with FIFA and the world football community, all our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the Republic of Indonesia, the Asian Football Confederation, the Indonesian Football Association and Indonesian Football with the victims and those injured. The league, in this difficult time,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino in a statement.
Meanwhile, home team Arema FC apologized to all those involved in the tragedy in a statement published on their website.
“As president of Arema FC, I apologize to all Malang residents affected by this incident, I am deeply concerned and strongly condemn the riots that took place at the Kanjuruhan stadium, which resulted in the death of over a hundred people,” the statement said. club president Gilang Vidya Pramana.
Persebaya also released a statement expressing their condolences, saying: “Persebaya’s extended family deeply mourns the loss of life after the game against Arema FC. Persebaya match No life is worth football.”
“May Alfatiha give patience to the victims and the family left behind.”
The English Premier League also expressed its condolences to the victims and their families by sharing a message of condolence. “The thoughts of everyone in the Premier League are with those affected by the tragic events at Kanjuruhan Stadium last night.”
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