At least 125 people have been killed at a football stadium in Indonesia Sunday after angry fans started a spiral of violence that prompted an overblown police reaction. Earlier reports mentioned 174 deaths but the figures were later revised. Another another 100 people have been hospitalized, 11 of them in critical condition.
I deeply regret this tragedy and hope that this football tragedy will be the last one in our country and there will be no more tragedies like this in the future, President Joko Widodo said.
The riots spread outside the stadium, where at least five police vehicles were knocked down and set on fire. Police justified firing tear gas into the stands, saying other actions had failed to stop thousands of Arema FC fans who stormed the pitch at Kanjuruhan Stadium after their team lost 3-2 to longtime rivals Persebaya Surabaya.
This is probably the worst tragedy in football history. It’s being reported around 127 dead, nearly 200 injured in a football stadium in Indonesia pic.twitter.com/ZP83QeU5rz— Eric Njiru (@EricNjiiru) October 2, 2022
After the officers fired the tear gas, panicking fans staged a stampede against an exit gate. Some of them suffocated in the chaos while others were trampled to death. At least 34 people, including two police officers, died at the stadium. Tear gas is banned by FIFA in stadiums.
The death toll was revised down to 125, according to East Java Vice Governor Emil Dardak, who said that some names were recorded twice. Earlier officials had put the figure as high as 174. There were many children among the dead, one of them as young as five years of age.
The 42,000-capacity stadium had been sold out. Police said about 3,000 people had stormed the pitch. Vehicles outside the stadium were also torched, including at least five police cars and trucks.
Widodo ordered an investigation into the tragedy, a safety review into all football matches, and directed the country’s football association to suspend all matches until “security improvements” were completed.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the football world was “in a state of shock.”
“All our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, those who have been injured, together with the people of the Republic of Indonesia,” he added.
FIFA specifies in its safety regulations that no firearms or “crowd control gas” should be carried or used by stewards or police. Amnesty International also criticized the use of tear gas and urged authorities to “conduct a swift, thorough, and independent investigation” and “ensure that those who are found to have committed violations are tried in open court and do not merely receive internal or administrative sanctions.”
“This loss of life cannot go unanswered,” said Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid.
The Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) said it would send its own investigation team to Malang. It also banned Arema FC from hosting home games for the rest of the season. “We’re sorry and apologize to families of the victims and all parties over the incident,” PSSI Chairman Mochamad Iriawan said.
Indonesia is scheduled to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup in May and June next year. The country is also bidding to stage next year’s Asian Cup.
Other stadium disasters include a 1964 crush at a Peru-Argentina Olympic qualifier at Lima’s National Stadium that killed 328 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 the United Kingdom, when an overcrowded and fenced-in enclosure collapsed at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.