At least 125 people have died after chaos and violence erupted at an Indonesian league football match through the early hours of Sunday, according to Indonesia’s national police chief in what is one of world’s deadliest stadium disasters of all time.
Fans of Arema FC and rival Persebaya Surabaya, two of Indonesia’s biggest football teams, clash in the stands after home side Arema FC lost 3-2 in a match in the city of Malang in East Java, police said.
Fans of the losing team then “invaded” the pitch and police fired tear gas, triggering a crush of fans that led to cases of choking, said East Java police chief Nico Afinta, during a press conference after the event.
Two police officers were also among the dead, he said, adding that the crush happened when fans ran for an exit door.
More than 300 people were injured, according to the Indonesian authorities, fearing that the toll could increase.
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 by compared to previous higher figures saying that this was due to some victims having been registered twice.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, on Sunday ordered all league matches to be halted until investigations are completed.
“I specifically requested the chief of police to investigate and get to the bottom of this matter,” Jokowi said in a televised address. “Sportsmanship, humanity and brotherhood must be respected in Indonesia.”
“I regret this tragedy and hope it will be the last to happen in Indonesian football. We can’t have any more (of this) in the future.
Videos filmed from inside the stadium late at 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 Indonesian security forces , who appeared to be wearing riot gear.
Video footage shown on local news channels also showed images of body bags, Reuters reported.
Smoke, which appeared to be tear gas, was also seen later in videos, with several people transported into a building. Officials said many had been admitted to nearby hospitals suffering from “lack of oxygen and shortness of breath”.
Located in East Java, Kanjuruhan Stadium is mainly used for football matches – with its total capacity estimated at 38,000 spectators.
But 42,000 tickets have been issued for Saturday’s game, according to ministry officials.
“We had anticipated the (large) numbers and suggested that the match be held in the afternoon instead, but it took place in the evening,” Indonesian Security Minister Mahfud MD said in a message. shared on his official social media accounts.
He added that the stadium had been “filled beyond its maximum capacity”.
“Our proposals were not met. I would also like to point out that the supporters on the pitch were those of Arema FC.
There have already been outbreaks of unrest at matches in Indonesia, with strong club rivalry sometimes leading to violence between fans.
“All sports clubs (in Indonesia) that compete between cities are always intense,” Indonesian football analyst Dex Glenniza told CNN, who noted that Arema fans are “banned” and of Persebaya to travel to each other’s stadiums.
“(It’s) in order to avoid friction and clashes between fans,” he said. “But there are still a lot of incidents between fans, most of them off the pitch.”
Police Chief Listyo said officers will review the organization and security in place during the game, and a number of specialist units have been dispatched to investigate the incident. The investigation will also look into officers who were on duty at the time of the incident, he said.
With Indonesia set to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup next year and bid for the 2023 Asian Cup, the country is now under scrutiny. a global review.
Observers note that the death toll from the Kanjuruhan Stadium disaster exceeded that of other global football disasters such as the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium tragedy in Sheffield, England, which saw 96 Liverpool supporters crushed to death.
Criticism is also growing over the way police handled Saturday’s event. In a statement on Sunday, the watchdog group Indonesian Police Watch (IPW) called for the accountability and “dismissal” 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 needs to be thoroughly investigated and President Jokowi needs to pay attention to it,” he added.
Human rights lawyer in exile in Indonesia, Veronica Koman of Amnesty International, has condemned the use of tear gas by the police.
“This example of tear gas abuse by police is illegal and amounts to torture,” she said.
“Tear gas is illegal in wartime – but why is it still legal for home use?”
The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) suspended matches next week following the deadly tragedy and banned Arema FC from hosting matches for the rest of the season.
“PSSI regrets the actions of Aremania supporters at Kanjuruhan Stadium,” association president Mochamad Iriawan said in a statement on Sunday.
He added that the incident had “tarnished the face of Indonesian football” and that they supported official investigations into the event.
“We are sorry and apologize to the families of the victims and to all parties for the incident,” he said.
“For this, PSSI immediately formed an investigation team and immediately left for Malang,” he added.
FIFA, the international football governing body, offered its condolences to the families and friends of the victims, calling the incident “a dark day for all involved in football and an incomprehensible tragedy”.
“Together with FIFA and the global football community, our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, to those injured, as well as to the people of the Republic of Indonesia, the Asian Football Confederation, the Indonesian Football Federation and the Indonesian Football Federation League, at this difficult time,” read a statement from FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
Meanwhile, host team Arema FC apologized to everyone involved in the tragedy in a statement posted on their website.
“As the president of Arema FC, I apologize to all the people of Malang who have been affected by this incident, I am very concerned and strongly condemn the riots at Kanjuruhan stadium which caused more a hundred dead,” the statement said, citing club president Gilang Widya Pramana.
Persebaya also released a statement expressing their condolences, saying, “The large family of Persebaya express their deepest condolences for the loss of life after the Arema FC match against Persebaya. No life is worth football.
“Alfatihah for the victims and may the family left behind receive courage.”
Condolences poured in for the victims and their families, with the English Premier League also sharing a message of condolence. “Everyone’s thoughts in the Premier League are with those affected by the tragic events at Kanjuruhan Stadium last night.”