An Indonesian league soccer match between two of the nation’s biggest teams ended in chaos and violence late on Saturday, police said.
During a match in Malang, East Java, fans of Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya clashed after Arema FC lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya.
The losing team’s supporters “invaded” the pitch and police fired tear gas, causing a stampede that led to suffocation, East Java police chief Nico Afinta said during a press conference.
“First of all, a riot happened,” Nico said. “It had gotten anarchic. The fans started attacking officers, they damaged cars.”
According to the police chief, two police officers died and 180 people were injured as fans fled for an exit gate, causing the crush.
Several videos posted on social media late last night showed red-and-blue-clad fans storming the field and clashing with Indonesian security forces.
Reuters reported that local news channels broadcast images of body bags.
The smoke, which appeared to be tear gas, was also seen in later videos, with several people being carried inside. It was unclear how severe their injuries were. According to officials, many were admitted to nearby hospitals suffering from shortness of breath and lack of oxygen.
Arema FC’s supporters stormed onto the field in anger after losing 2-3 to Persebaya Surabaya.
Zainudin Amali a youth minister told news outlets he has demanded an investigation into the tragedy to determine who was responsible.
“I am coordinating with the national police chief and PSSI chairman and we will go directly to the stadium pitch in Malang,” he said.
Located in East Java, Kanjuruhan Stadium holds up to 42,500 people and is mostly used for soccer matches.
It has not yet been confirmed how many people attended Saturday’s late night game, but video footage and pictures taken by fans show full stands.
In the past, there have been incidents of violence among fans at matches in Indonesia, as a result of strong rivalry between clubs.
Due to the deadly tragedy, the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) has suspended games next week, and Arema FC has been banned from hosting games for the remainder of the season.
“PSSI regrets the actions of Aremania fans at the Kanjuruhan Stadium,” the association’s chairman, Mochamad Iriawan, said.
According to him, the incident “tarnished the image of Indonesian football” and they were supporting official investigations.
“We are sorry and apologize to the families of the victims and all parties for the incident,” he said.
“For that PSSI immediately formed an investigation team and immediately left for Malang,” he added.
In a statement, Persebaya expressed their condolences, saying: “Persebaya’s big family expresses its deepest condolences for Arema FC’s loss. “Football is not worth your life.”
“Alfatihah for the victims and may the family left behind be given fortitude.”
In 2023, the Southeast Asian country will host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. They are also bidding to host next year’s Asian Cup after China backed out.
Despite this, criticism of the police’s handling of Saturday’s event is growing. According to Indonesian Police Watch (IPW), Malang Police Chief Ferli Hidayat should be held accountable and removed.
“This is the worst event in Indonesian soccer history. IPW called for the police chief to resign and be ashamed.
“There must be a thorough investigation of the death toll, and President Jokowi must pay attention,” it added.
Veronica Koman, an exiled Indonesian rights advocate for Amnesty International, condemned the police’s use of tear gas.
She said that police abuse of tear gas amounts to torture.
“Why is tear gas still legal for domestic use despite being illegal in warfare?” – She added.
For more on this story, please consider these sources:
- Indonesia soccer stampede kills at least 129, police say The Washington Post
- Indonesian soccer match stampede leaves more than 120 dead ESPN
- 127 People Dead in Riot After Indonesian Soccer Match #shorts Voice of America
- Indonesia stadium tragedy: 129 people dead following soccer match, police say CNN
- Indonesia police say 127 people killed after stampede at football match | ABC News ABC News (Australia)