Police used tear gas to disperse fans at an Indonesian soccer event, causing panic and a chaotic rush for the exits. In one of the worst sporting events in history, angry supporters left at least 174 dead, the majority of whom were crushed or suffocated.
The police’s use of tear gas, which FIFA forbids in soccer stadiums, instantly came to light. The tragedy shocked the president, Joko Widodo, who also commissioned a review into security protocols. After the game, which finished Saturday night with Persebaya of Surabaya defeating the host Arema FC of Malang, East Java, 3-2, riots broke out.
Thousands of Arema fans, often known as “Alemania,” were upset over their team’s defeat and reacted by hurling bottles and other items at players and soccer officials. According to eyewitnesses, Arema supporters flocked to the field at Kanjuruhan Stadium and clamoured for management to explain why this match against Persebaya, the team’s archrival for 23 years, ended in defeat.
At least five police cars were overturned and set on fire outside the stadium as the violence spread there. Tear gas was fired by riot police in response, including toward the stadium’s stands, which alarmed the crowd.
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As hundreds of people rushed to the door to escape the tear gas, some choked to death and others were crushed underfoot. 34 people perished in the stadium as a result of the turmoil, including two officers and children, according to some sources.
East Java police commander Nico Afinta stated at a press conference early on Sunday that “we have already done a preventive step before eventually launching the tear gas as (fans) began to attack the police, acting anarchically, and burning vehicles.”
More than 300 people were taken directly to hospitals, but Afinta claimed many of them passed either during the route or while receiving care. 174 people have died, according to East Java’s Vice Governor Emil Dardak, who also reported to Kompas TV that more than 100 injured persons are getting urgent care in eight hospitals, with 11 of them in serious condition.
Due to the disaster, Indonesia’s top soccer competition Liga 1 was halted indefinitely, and Arema was prohibited from hosting matches for the remainder of the campaign. Police and rescuers were seen transporting the dead and injured to ambulances in television broadcasts.
At Saiful Anwar General Hospital in Malang, grieving loved ones awaited news about their deaths. While medical professionals placed identification tags on the victims’ bodies, others attempted to identify the dead lying in a morgue.
In a speech that was shown on television, Widodo said, “I profoundly regret this tragedy and I hope this is the last soccer disaster in this country; don’t let another human tragedy like this happen in the future.” “We must continue to uphold good sportsmanship, humanity, and a sense of the Indonesian nation’s fraternity.”
He gave orders for a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s soccer and security procedures to be carried out by the youth and sports minister, the national police head, and the PSSI chair. The tragedy occurred while we were getting ready for soccer game activities at the national and international levels, Youth and Sports Minister Zainudin Amali added.
24 teams will compete in the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup, which will be held in Indonesia from May 20 to June 11. The nation automatically qualifies for the cup because it is the host. Amali remarked, “Unfortunately, this episode has damaged our soccer image.
The game on Saturday drew about 42,000 spectators, all of whom were Arema supporters because the organiser had forbidden Persebaya supporters from entering the stadium to prevent fights, according to Ferli Hidayat, the local police head of Malang.
The ban was put in place following fights between fans of the two competing teams in East Java’s Blitar stadium in February 2020 that resulted in damage totalling 250 million rupiahs ($18,000). During and following the East Java Governor’s Cup semifinals, which saw Persebaya defeat Arema 4-2, fights were reported outside the stadium.
Rights organisations blamed the police’s use of tear gas inside the stadium for the tragedy. Amnesty International urged Indonesian authorities to launch a prompt, exhaustive, and impartial investigation into the use of tear gas at Kanjuruhan stadium, citing FIFA’s stadium safety regulations that forbid pitch side stewards or police from possessing or using “crowd control gas.”
Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said, “Those who are found to have violated the law are tried in open court and do not only receive internal or administrative sanctions.”
He advised against using tear gas to disperse crowds until there has been significant violence and all other measures have failed. Tear gas must be deployed, and the public must be informed and given time to leave. Hamid said that “nobody should perish during a football game.”
Despite Indonesia’s lack of recognition in the sport on the world stage, hooliganism is rampant in the soccer-obsessed nation, where fervour frequently results in bloodshed, as in the case of a Persija Jakarta supporter who was slain by a mob of fervent Persib Bandung supporters in 2018.
The 1996 World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City, when over 80 people perished and over 100 more were injured, is considered one of the worst crowd catastrophes in history, and Saturday’s game is already on that list. At Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa, a soccer match in April 2001 resulted in the deaths of more than 40 spectators.