According to Indonesia’s National Police Chief, at least 125 people were killed after chaos and violence erupted during an Indonesian league soccer match in the early hours of Sunday, in one of the world’s deadliest stadium disasters.
Police said supporters of Arema FC and rival Persebaya Surabaya, two of Indonesia’s most prominent soccer teams, clashed in the stands after Arema FC was defeated 3-2 in a match in the East Java city of Malang.
Following the event, supporters of the losing team “invaded” the pitch, and police fired tear gas, causing a fan crush that resulted in cases of suffocation, according to East Java police chief Nico Afinta during a press conference.
He added that two police officers were also killed, and the crash happened as spectators sprinted for an exit gate.
Authorities in Indonesia report that more than 300 people have been hurt and are concerned that the death toll may grow.
The tragedy occurred in the province of East Java, where the governor earlier Sunday reported 131 fatalities. The difference between the earlier higher statistics was explained by Listyo Sigit Prabowo, Chief of the National Police, who claimed that some casualties were registered twice.
On Sunday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, issued a directive to suspend all league games while inquiries are ongoing.
In a televised statement, Jokowi declared, “I have personally instructed the police chief to investigate and get to the bottom of this situation.” “Indonesia should uphold good sportsmanship, humanity, and fraternity.”
“I mourn this tragedy and sincerely hope it’s the last to affect Indonesian football. In the future, we cannot have more of (this).”
Late-night videos taken inside the stadium and posted on social media showed fans rushing the pitch while donning the home team’s colors of red and blue and squaring off with Indonesian security personnel who appeared to be wearing riot gear.
According to Reuters, images of corpse bags could also be seen in video footage carried on local news channels.
Later, in videos, smoke that seemed to be tear gas was also visible, along with other victims being carried into a building. According to officials, several were treated at local hospitals for “loss of oxygen and shortness of breath.”
Among the worst stadium mishaps in recorded history
The East Javan Kanjuruhan Stadium, which can hold up to 38,000 spectators, is primarily used for soccer events.
Nevertheless, according to ministry officials, 42,000 tickets for the game on Saturday were distributed.
Mahfud MD, the Indonesian Chief Security Minister, claimed in a post uploaded on his official social media accounts that “we had expected the (huge) attendance and requested that the game be held in the afternoon instead, but it went on in the evening.”
The stadium had been “packed to its maximum capacity,” he continued.
“They didn’t fulfill our demands. Additionally, I want to underline that Arema FC supporters were on the pitch.”
There has been previous unrest at games in Indonesia, and fierce rivalries between clubs have occasionally resulted in fan violence.
According to Indonesian football commentator Dex Glenniza, “all sports clubs (in Indonesia) that competition between the two cities are usually intense.” Glenna also observed that it was “forbidden” for fans of Arema and Persebaya to visit each other’s stadiums.
He explained, “(This is) to prevent tension and fights between supporters. But there are still many incidents between fans, most of which take place off the pitch.
The match’s organization and security will be examined, according to police chief Listyo, who announced that They had sent many specialist teams to the scene to conduct the investigation. According to him, the investigation will also focus on the police officers on duty at the time of occurrence.
Global attention is now focused on Indonesia as it prepares to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup and bid to host the Asian Cup in 2023.
Observers point out that the Kanjuruhan Stadium accident has resulted in more fatalities than other major soccer tragedies, such as the Hillsborough Stadium tragedy in Sheffield, England, in 1989, which saw 96 Liverpool fans crushed to death.
Criticism is also escalating regarding how the police handled the incident on Saturday. Watchdog organization Indonesian Police Watch (IPW) demanded accountability and the “removal” of Malang Police Chief Ferli Hidayat in a statement issued on Sunday.
“This is the worst soccer-related incident in Indonesia. The police chief ought to be ashamed and step down, stated IPW.
It said, “The mortality toll requires a comprehensive investigation, and President Jokowi must pay heed.”
Amnesty International’s exiled Indonesia rights activist Veronica Koman denounced the police’s deployment of tear gas.
She declared that the police’s use of tear gas was illegal and amounted to torture.
“Tear gas is prohibited from use in combat; why is it still permitted in domestic settings?”
The incident was referred to as “tragic day for those engaged in football; tragedy beyond comprehension” by FIFA, the world’s governing body of soccer, in a statement to the families and friends of the victims.
Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, released a statement that read,
“In this trying time, the people of the Republic of Indonesia, the Asian Football Confederation, the Indonesian Football Association, and the Indonesian Football League are all in our thoughts and prayers, along with FIFA and the rest of the world’s football community.”
In the meantime, the host team Arema FC issued a statement on their website expressing regret to everyone connected to the tragedy.
The statement quoted club president Gilang Widya Pramana as saying, “As the President of Arema FC, I apologize to all people of Malang who were touched by this incident. I am distraught and strongly condemn the disturbances at the Kanjuruhan stadium, which resulted in more than one hundred deaths.”
The statement from Persebaya read: “Persebaya’s big family offers their profound condolences for the loss of life following the Persebaya vs. Arema FC match. Football is not worth a life.
“Al-Fatihah for the victims, and strength to the bereaved families.”
Many people expressed their condolences to the victims and their families, and the English Premier League also shared its condolences. “Everyone at the Premier League is thinking of those touched by the awful events at Kanjuruhan Stadium last night,” the statement reads.