Indonesia soccer riot, stampede after tear gas leaves 174 dead

Authorities adjusted the death toll to 125, saying some victims were counted twice. More than 100 people were hospitalized.

MALANG, East Java – Panic and chaos fled after police fired tear gas at a soccer match in Indonesia to scare away fans upset by their team’s loss that left at least 125 dead, most most of them were trampled or suffocated, making them one of the deadliest sporting events in the world.

Attention immediately focused on police use of tear gas, and witnesses described police beating them with sticks and shields before firing directly into the crowd.

The FIFA president called the deaths at the stadium “a dark day for all involved in football and an incomprehensible tragedy”, while President Joko Widodo ordered an investigation into safety procedures. security. Although FIFA does not control domestic matches, it has advised against the use of tear gas at football stadiums.

Violence erupted after the match ended on Saturday night when the hosts Arema FC of the East Java city of Malang lost 3-2 to Persebaya of Surabaya.

Frustrated with their team’s loss, thousands of Arema supporters, known as “Aremania”, reacted by hurling bottles and other objects at football players and officials. Witnesses said fans flooded the Kanjuruhan Stadium and asked Arema management to explain why, after 23 years of unbeaten at home against rivals Persebaya, this match ended in a tie. lose.

Violence spread outside the stadium, where at least five police cars overturned and caught fire. Riot police responded by firing tear gas, including towards the stadium’s stands, scaring the crowd.

Spectator Ahmad Fatoni said police began hitting fans with sticks and shields, and they fought back.

“The staff fired tear gas directly at the audience in the stands, forcing us to run towards the exit,” he said. “Many victims fell because of difficulty breathing and vision due to tear gas and were trampled on.”

He said he climbed to the roof of the stands and only came down when the situation calmed down.

Others suffocated and were trampled as hundreds ran to exits to escape tear gas. During the chaos, 34 people died at the stadium, including two officers, and some reports included children among the casualties.

“We took preemptive action before finally firing tear gas when (fans) started attacking the police, acting anarchy and setting cars on fire,” East Java police chief Nico Afinta said in a statement. a press conference early on Sunday.

More than 300 people were taken to hospital but many died along the way and during treatment, Afinta said.

National Police Chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo said the death toll had been revised down to 125 after authorities found some victims were counted twice. More than 100 people are being treated in intensive care at eight hospitals, 11 of them in critical condition.

“The stadium turned into a battlefield filled with smoke when the police fired tear gas,” said Rizky, who attended the match with his cousin.

“I felt hot and my eyes sting, I couldn’t see clearly while my head was dizzy and everything went dark… I passed out,” he said. When he woke up, he was taken to the emergency room. He said his cousin died from a head wound.

“We wanted to entertain ourselves by watching a football match, but we had a disaster,” he said.

The Indonesian football association, known as PSSI, has indefinitely suspended the top soccer league Liga 1 due to the tragedy and banned Arema from hosting matches for the remainder of the season.

Television reports showed police and rescuers evacuating the injured and putting the dead in ambulances.

Grieving relatives wait for information about their loved ones at Saiful Anwar General Hospital, Malang. Others tried to identify bodies placed at a morgue while paramedics affixed identification tags to the bodies of the victims.

“I deeply regret this tragedy and I hope this is the last football tragedy in this country, don’t let another human tragedy like this happen in the future,” Widodo said in a post. televised speech. “We must continue to uphold the spirit of sport, humanity and brotherhood of the Indonesian people.”

He ordered the youth and sports minister, national police chief and PSSI president to conduct a thorough review of the country’s football and its security process.

Youth and Sports Minister Zainudin Amali also expressed regret that “this tragedy happened as we were preparing for football game activities, at both national and international level”.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis said he was praying for “all those who lost their lives and were injured in the clashes that broke out after a football match in Malang, Indonesia.”

Indonesia will host the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup from May 20 to June 11, with 24 teams participating. As the host, the country automatically qualifies to win the cup.

“Unfortunately, this incident has definitely hurt our football image,” Amali said.

In a statement, FIFA President Gianni Infantino expressed condolences on behalf of the global football community and said that “the world of football is in a state of shock.” The statement made no mention of the use of tear gas.

Ferli Hidayat, the Malang local police chief, said there were about 42,000 spectators at Saturday’s match, all of whom were Arema supporters because organizers had banned Persebaya fans from entering the stadium to avoid scuffles. da.

The restriction came after clashes between supporters of two rival teams at East Java’s Blitar Stadium in February 2020 caused 250 million rupiah ($18,000) in damages. Clashes were reported outside the stadium during and after the East Java Governors Cup semi-final, which ended with Persebaya beating Arema 4-2.

Human rights groups responded to the tragedy by blaming the use of tear gas in the stadium by police.

Citing FIFA’s stadium safety guidelines against the use of “crowd control gases” by stadium management or the police, Amnesty International called on Indonesian authorities to launch an investigation. quickly, thoroughly and independently about the use of tear gas at Kanjuruhan Stadium.

Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said: “Those found to be in violation will be tried in public courts and not only subject to internal or administrative sanctions.”

He said tear gas should only be used to disperse crowds when widespread violence has occurred and when other methods have failed. People must be warned that tear gas will be used and allowed to be released. “No one should lose their life in a football match,” Hamid said.

Despite Indonesia’s lack of international appreciation in the sport, hooliganism is rampant in the football-loving country, where fanaticism often ends in violence, as in the 2018 death of a football player. Persija Jakarta fan who was killed by a mob of passionate fans of rival club Persib Bandung in 2018.

Saturday’s match was already one of the world’s worst crowd disasters, including the 1996 World Cup qualifying match between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City, where more than 80 people died and more than 100 others. injured. In April 2001, more than 40 people died during a football match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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