Dozens killed in stampede, riot at Indonesia soccer match – Al Jazeera English

Dozens killed in stampede, riot at Indonesia soccer match - Al Jazeera English

At least 129 people have been killed and dozens injured in a riot and stampede at an Indonesian soccer stadium.

The tragedy on Saturday night in the eastern city of Malang was one of the deadliest sports stadium disasters in the world.

Police in East Java province said thousands of Arema FC fans stormed the pitch at Kanjuruhan Stadium after their team lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya. Officers tried to control the “riots” by firing tear gas, triggering a stampede as panicked fans rushed to an exit gate.

Some suffocated in the chaos while others were trampled to death.

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“Thirty-four people died inside the stadium and the rest died in hospital,” East Java Police Chief Nico Afinta said.

The death toll is likely still rising, he said, as many of the 180 or so injured victims’ conditions have worsened.

A hospital director told local television that one of the victims was five years old.

Video footage from local news channels showed fans streaming onto the pitch at the Kanjurujan Stadium in Malang after Arema FC lost to Persebaya Surabaya. Riots can be seen, with what appeared to be tear gas in the air. Images also showed people who appeared to have lost consciousness being carried away by other fans.

The stadium holds 42,000 people and authorities said it was sold out. Police said about 3,000 people stormed the pitch. Vehicles outside the stadium were also torched, including a police truck.

This picture taken on Oct. 1, 2022 shows members of the Indonesian army securing the pitch after a soccer match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java.
Members of the Indonesian army secure the playing field after a stampede at a football match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, on October 1, 2022. [AFP]

Survivors described panicked bystanders in a packed crowd as tear gas rained down on them.

“Officers fired tear gas, and automatically people rushed to get out, pushing each other and it caused many casualties,” a 43-year-old bystander told the AFP news agency. “Nothing happened, there was no commotion. I don’t know what the matter was, they suddenly fired tear gas. This is what shocked me, didn’t they think about children, women?”

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President Joko Widodo ordered an investigation into the tragedy, a security review at all soccer matches and ordered the country’s soccer association to suspend all matches until “security improvements” were completed.

“I deeply regret this tragedy and I hope this football tragedy will be the last in our country,” Widodo said.

Fan violence is an ongoing problem in Indonesia, with strong rivalry between clubs sometimes leading to violence between supporters. Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya are longtime rivals and fans of the latter were not allowed to buy tickets for Saturday’s game for fear of violence.

Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Mahfud MD, said organizers had ignored authorities’ recommendation to hold the match in the afternoon instead of the evening. He also said the government recommended printing only 38,000 tickets, but instead there was a sell-out crowd of 42,000. “The government has made improvements to the implementation of football matches… and will continue to improve. But this sport, which is a favorite of the wider community, often encourages supporters to express emotions,” he said in an Instagram post.

In this picture taken on Oct. 1, 2022, a group of people carry a man after a soccer match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang.
A group of people carry a man after a stampede at a soccer match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at the Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java, on October 1, 2022. [AFP]

World soccer governing body FIFA specifies in its security regulations that no firearms or “crowd control gas” should be carried or used by flight attendants or police. East Java police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether they were aware of such regulations.

Referring to the FIFA rules, Amnesty International criticized the use of tear gas in the stadium and urged authorities to “conduct a swift, thorough and independent investigation” and “ensure that those found to have committed violations are tried in public court and not only receive internal or administrative sanctions”.

“This loss of life cannot go unanswered,” said Usman Hamid, the executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia.

The Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) said it will send its own investigation team to Malang to establish the cause of the crush. It also prohibited Arema FC from arranging home games for the rest of the season.

“We regret and apologize to families of the victims and all parties for the incident,” said PSSI president Mochamad Iriawan.

The tragedy comes as Indonesia is scheduled to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup in May and June next year. They are also one of three countries bidding to host next year’s Asian Cup, the continent’s equivalent of the Euros, after China pulled out as host.

Al Jazeera’s Jessica Washington, reporting from the Indonesian capital Jakarta, said Saturday’s disaster was “historic”.

“Violence and riots are common at football matches in Indonesia, but we have never seen anything like this before,” she said.

“This is a historic tragedy, not only for football in Indonesia but football internationally. This is one of the biggest tragedies the sport has seen, in terms of fan violence, in terms of deaths of fans at a match,” she added.

Other stadium disasters include a 1964 crush at a Peru-Argentina Olympic qualifier at Lima’s National Stadium that killed around 320 people, and the 2012 Port Said stadium tragedy in Egypt where 74 people died in clashes.

In 1989, some 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death in Britain when an overcrowded and fenced enclosure collapsed at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.

This picture shows a burnt out car outside Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java on October 2, 2022.
This picture shows a burnt car outside Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang on October 2, 2022 [Putri/ AFP]

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