At least 125 people have died after chaos and violence erupted during an Indonesian league soccer match early Sunday, according to Indonesia’s national police chief in what is one of the stadium disasters deadliest in the world of all time.
Supporters of Arema FC and rivals Persebaya Surabaya, two of Indonesia’s top football teams, clashed in the stands after home side Arema FC were beaten 3-2 in a match in the city of Malang in East Java, police said.
Supporters of the losing team “invaded” the pitch and police fired tear gas, causing a stampede of fans that led to cases of suffocation, East Java police chief Nico Afinta said. during a post-event press conference.
Two policemen were also among the dead, he said, adding that the crush occurred as fans fled towards an exit gate.
More than 300 people were injured, according to Indonesian authorities, with fears that the death toll could rise.
Earlier on Sunday, the governor of East Java province, where the incident occurred, said the death toll was 131. National Police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo clarified the discrepancy in the higher figures earlier saying it was due to some casualties being recorded twice.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, ordered a halt to all league games on Sunday until investigations were completed.
“I have especially asked the police chief to investigate and get to the bottom of this case,” Jokowi said in a televised speech. “Sportsmanship, humanity and brotherhood must be maintained in Indonesia.”
“I regret this tragedy and hope it will be the last to happen in Indonesian football. We cannot have more (of this) in the future.”
Videos filmed from inside the stadium late into the night and shared on social media showed fans dressed in red and blue, the colors of the home team, storming the pitch and clashing with forces of Indonesian security, who appeared to be wearing riot gear.
Video footage broadcast on local news channels also showed images of body bags, Reuters reported.
Smoke, which appeared to be tear gas, was also seen later videos, with several people being transported into a building. Officials said many had been admitted to nearby hospitals, suffering from “lack of oxygen and difficulty breathing”.
Located in East Java, Kanjuruhan Stadium is mainly used for football matches, with a total capacity estimated at 38,000 spectators.
But 42,000 tickets were issued for Saturday’s game, according to ministry officials.
“We had anticipated the (large) numbers and suggested that the game be played in the afternoon, but it continued into the evening,” Indonesia’s Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD said in a post shared on his official Twitter account. Social Networks.
He added that the stadium had been “filled beyond its maximum capacity”.
“Our proposals were not fulfilled. I would also like to point out that the fans on the pitch were from Arema FC”.
There have been previous outbreaks of trouble at matches in Indonesia, with strong rivalry between clubs sometimes leading to violence between supporters.
“All sports clubs (in Indonesia) that compete between the two cities are always intense,” Indonesian soccer analyst Dex Glenniza told CNN, noting that Arema and Persebaya fans were “forbidden” to visit the stadiums of others.
“(This is) to avoid friction and clashes between supporters,” he said. “But there are still many incidents between supporters, most of which are off the pitch.”
Police chief Listyo said officers will look into the organization and security during the match, and that several specialist units have been dispatched to investigate the incident. The inquiry will also look into the police officers who were on duty at the time of the incident, he said.
With Indonesia set to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup next year and making a bid for the 2023 Asian Cup, there is now global scrutiny on the country.
Observers note that the death toll from the Kanjuruhan Stadium disaster has surpassed that of other global football disasters such as the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium tragedy in Sheffield, England, which saw 96 Liverpool fans die crushed
Criticism is also growing for the handling of Saturday’s event by the police. In a statement released on Sunday, watchdog group Indonesian Police Watch (IPW) called for accountability and the “removal” of Malang police chief Ferli Hidayat.
“This is the worst event in Indonesian football. The police chief should be ashamed and resign,” IPW said.
“The death toll must be thoroughly investigated and President Jokowi must pay attention,” he added.
Exiled Indonesian rights defender Veronica Koman of Amnesty International condemned the use of tear gas by the police.
“This case of abuse of tear gas by the police is illegal and amounts to torture,” he said.
“Tear gas is illegal in war, but why is it still legal for domestic use?”
The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) has suspended matches next week as a result of the fatal tragedy and banned Arema FC from hosting matches for the rest of the season.
“PSSI regrets the actions of Aremania supporters at the Kanjuruhan Stadium,” association president Mochamad Iriawan said in a statement issued on Sunday.
He added that the incident had “tarnished the face of Indonesian football” and that they supported official investigations into the incident.
“We regret and apologize to the families of the victims and all parties involved in the incident,” he said.
“Therefore, the PSSI immediately formed an investigation team and immediately left for Malang,” he added.
FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, sent its condolences to the families and friends of the victims, calling the incident “a dark day for everyone involved in soccer and a tragedy beyond of understanding”.
“Together with FIFA and the world football community, all our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, the injured, along with the people of the Republic of Indonesia, the Asian Football Confederation, the Association of Indonesian Football and the Indonesian Football League, in these difficult times,” read a statement from FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
Meanwhile, the host 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 the residents of Malang who were affected by this incident, I am very concerned and strongly condemn the riots at the Kanjuruhan Stadium that caused more than a hundred dead,” the statement quoted. the president of Gilang Widya Pramana club.
Persebaya also issued a statement expressing its condolences, saying: “The big family of Persebaya expresses its deepest condolences for the loss of life after the Arema FC match against Persebaya. No life is worth football.”
“Alfatihah to the victims and may the family he left behind have strength.”
Condolences were received by the victims and the family, and the English Premier League also shared a message of condolence. “The thoughts of everyone in the Premier League are with those affected by the tragic events at the Kanjuruhan Stadium last night.”