By AGOES BASOEKI and NINIEK KARMINI Associated Press
MALANG, Indonesia (AP) — Panic and a chaotic rush for exits after police fired tear gas at an Indonesian soccer match to scare away rioting fans left at least 174 people dead, most of them they were trampled or suffocated, making it one of the deadliest. sporting events in the world.
Attention was immediately focused on police use of tear gas, which is banned in football stadiums by FIFA. President Joko Widodo expressed shock at the tragedy and ordered an investigation of security procedures.
Riots broke out after the game ended on Saturday night with host Arema FC from Malang city in East Java losing to Persebaya from Surabaya 3-2.
Disappointed by the loss of their team, thousands of supporters of Arema, known as “Aremania”, reacted by throwing bottles and other objects at soccer players and officials. Witnesses said fans flooded the field of Kanjuruhan Stadium and demanded that Arema’s management explain why, after 23 years of undefeated home games against rival Persebaya, it ended in defeat.
Political cartoons about world leaders
The violence spread outside the stadium where at least five police vehicles were shot down and set on fire. Riot police responded by firing tear gas, including into the stadium’s stands, sending the crowd into a panic.
Some suffocated and others were trampled as hundreds of people ran for the exit to avoid the tear gas. In the chaos, 34 were killed in the stadium, including two officers, with some reports including children among the victims.
“We have already taken a preventive action before finally launching tear gas when (fans) started attacking the police, acting lawlessly and burning vehicles,” East Java Police Chief Nico Afinta told a news conference on Thursday. Sunday morning.
More than 300 were rushed to hospitals, but many died en route and during treatment, Afinta said.
East Java Deputy Governor Emil Dardak told Kompas TV that the death toll had risen to 174, while more than 100 injured are receiving intensive treatment in eight hospitals, 11 of them in critical condition.
The Indonesian football association, known as PSSI, has indefinitely suspended the main football league, Liga 1, in light of the tragedy and banned Arema from hosting football matches for the rest of the season.
Television reports showed police and rescuers evacuating the wounded and transporting the dead to ambulances.
Grieving relatives awaited information about their loved ones at Saiful Anwar General Hospital in Malang. Others tried to identify the bodies deposited in a morgue while medical workers placed identification tags on the bodies of the victims.
“I deeply regret this tragedy and I hope this is the last football tragedy in this country, do not let another human tragedy like this happen in the future,” Widodo said in a televised speech. “We must continue to uphold the sportsmanship, humanity and sense of brotherhood of the Indonesian nation.”
He ordered the youth and sports minister, the national police chief and the PSSI president to carry out a comprehensive evaluation of the country’s football and its security procedure.
The Minister of Youth and Sports, Zainudin Amali, also expressed regret that “this tragedy occurred when we were preparing for the activities of football matches, both nationally and internationally.”
Indonesia is due to host the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup from May 20 to June 11, with 24 participating teams. As the host, the country automatically qualifies for the cup.
“Unfortunately, this incident has certainly damaged our football image,” Amali said.
Ferli Hidayat, Malang’s local police chief, said there were about 42,000 spectators at Saturday’s game, all Arema supporters because the organizer had barred Persebaya supporters from entering the stadium to prevent fights.
The restriction was imposed after clashes between supporters of the two rival teams at East Java’s Blitar Stadium in February 2020 caused 250 million rupees ($18,000) in damage. Fighting outside the stadium was reported during and after the East Java Governor’s Cup semi-finals, 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 the police.
Amnesty International, citing FIFA stadium security guidelines that prohibit stewards or police from carrying or using “crowd control gas”, called on the Indonesian authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into the incident. use of tear gas at the Kanjuruhan stadium.
“Those found to have committed violations are tried in open court and not only receive internal or administrative sanctions,” said Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia.
He said tear gas should only be used to disperse crowds when widespread violence has occurred and other methods have failed. People should be warned that tear gas will be used and allowed to disperse. “No one should lose their life in a football match,” Hamid said.
Despite Indonesia’s lack of international praise in sport, hooliganism is rife in the soccer-obsessed country where fanaticism often ends in violence, as in the 2018 death of a Persija Jakarta supporter who was killed by a mob of hardcore fans of rival club Persib Bandung. in 2018.
Saturday’s match is already among the world’s worst crowd disasters, including the 1996 World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City, where more than 80 people were killed and more than 100 injured. . In April 2001, more than 40 people were crushed to death during a football match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Karmini reported from Jakarta, Indonesia. Associated Press writers Edna Tarigan and Andi Jatmiko in Jakarta contributed to this report.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.