Tear gas triggers stampede in stadium
Panic and a chaotic run for exits after police fired tear gas at an Indonesian soccer match to drive away fans upset with their team’s loss left at least 125 dead, most of whom were trampled upon or suffocated, making it one of the deadliest sports events in the world.
Attention immediately focused on the police use of tear gas, and witnesses described police beat them with sticks and shields before shooting canisters directly into the crowds.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino called the deaths at the stadium “a dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension,” while President Joko Widodo ordered an investigation of security procedures. While Fifa has no control over domestic games, it has advised against the use of tear gas at soccer stadiums.
Violence broke out after the game ended Saturday evening with host Arema FC of East Java’s Malang city losing to Persebaya of Surabaya 3-2. Disappointed with their team’s loss, thousands of supporters of Arema, known as “Aremania,” reacted by throwing bottles and other objects at players and soccer officials.
Witnesses said fans flooded the Kanjuruhan Stadium pitch and demanded that Arema management explain why, after 23 years of undefeated home matches against Persebaya, this one ended in a loss.
The violence spread outside the stadium where at least five police vehicles were toppled and set ablaze. Riot police responded by firing tear gas, including toward the stadium’s stands, causing panic among the crowd. Others suffocated and were trampled as hundreds of people ran to the exit to avoid the tear gas. In the chaos, 34 died at the stadium, including two officers, and some reports include children among the casualties.
More than 300 were rushed to hospitals but many died on the way and during a treatment, Afinta said. National police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo said the death toll had been revised to 125 from 174, after authorities found some of the victims were counted twice. More than 100 were receiving intensive treatment in eight hospitals, 11 of them in critical condition.
Indonesia’s soccer association, known as PSSI, suspended the premier soccer league Liga 1 indefinitely in light of the tragedy and banned Arema from hosting soccer matches for the remainder of the season.
Grieving relatives waited for information about their loved ones at Malang’s Saiful Anwar General Hospital. Others tried to identify the bodies laid at a morgue while medical workers put identification tag on the bodies of the victims. Indonesia is due to host the 2023 Fifa Under-20 World Cup from May 20 to June 11, with 24 participating teams. As the host, the country automatically qualifies for the cup.
Saturday’s game is already among the world’s worst crowd disasters, including the 1996 World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City where over 80 died and over 100 more were injured. In April 2001, more than 40 people are crushed to death during a soccer match in Johannesburg. In October same year. in Accra, Ghana, 129 football fans died in a stampede after police fired teargas in the stands, during a match between arch-rivals Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko.