Scores killed in stadium stampede as Indonesian football fans riot

Eko Widianto
2022.10.02
Malang, Indonesia
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Scores killed in stadium stampede as Indonesian football fans riot A women breaks down after receiving confirmation that her family member is among those killed in a football riot, at a hospital in Malang, Indonesia, Oct. 2, 2022.
Dicky Bisinglasi/AP

Updated at 12:23 p.m. ET on 2022-10-02

Scores of people died in a stampede at a football stadium in Indonesia’s East Java province after police fired tear gas at angry fans who invaded the pitch when their team lost, police and officials said Sunday.

National police chief General Listyo Sigit Prabowo revised the death toll down to 125 late Sunday, saying an earlier number was the result of double counting.

“Based on verification by the Disaster Victim Identification unit and the health office, the number is 125,” he said after inspecting the scene of the disaster and visiting patients in the city of Malang. About 300 people were injured, provincial authorities had earlier said.

The incident late Saturday ranks as one of the world's worst football stadium disasters, and the president of the body that governs the sport internationally, FIFA, said the football world was “in a state of shock.”

“This is a dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in an online statement. “I extend my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims who lost their lives.”

Most of the victims died as they crammed the gates of Kanjuruhan Stadium in the city of Malang, after host Arema FC’s 3-2 defeat to rival Persebaya Surabaya sparked rioting by some in the home crowd late Saturday, provincial police chief Nico Afinta said.

“Supporters ran to one section of the stadium and many suffocated because it was too crowded,” Afinta told reporters, adding that two police officers were among the dead.

Afinta said the decision to fire tear gas was in accordance with procedures after about 3,000 fans invaded the pitch. Ten vehicles were torched during the rioting, police said.

“If the fans had followed the rules, this incident would not have happened,” Afinta said.

He said there were few Persebaya supporters in the crowd because authorities had decided before the match that the game should be attended by Arema fans only, given the fierce rivalry between the two clubs in the top-flight Liga 1 competition.

FIFA, however, bans the use of crowd-control gas and firearms at stadiums, raising questions of whether the police action was warranted.

“The police who were in charge of security violated FIFA stadium safety and security regulations,” football pundit Akmal Marhali told Kompas.com.

“The Indonesia Football Association may have been negligent for not informing the police that security procedures at a football match are not the same as those at a demonstration,” he said.

A survivor named Doni told Kompas TV that police fired tear gas at spectators in one section of the stadium.

“There was a commotion at the pitch and people climbed back to the stands. After that police fired tear gas at the stands. We scrambled to get out. It was hot and people were weak,” said Doni, whose brother and brother's wife died in the incident.

Football is Indonesia’s most popular sport, and matches are often marked by violence, especially among fans of Surabaya, Jakarta and Bandung clubs.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud MD said match organizers had ignored advice to hold the game earlier in the day, and oversold tickets.

“The number of tickets printed was 42,000, while the stadium's capacity is 38,000,” he said in a statement.

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Officers examine a damaged police vehicle following rioting and a stampede at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, Indonesia, Oct. 1, 2022. (Yudha Prabowo/AP)

Witnesses said fans who were upset at the loss were venting anger at their own players who lost to Persebaya at home for the first time in 23 years, and were not attacking rival supporters. 

Supporters chased the home players after the match to express their disappointment and were confronted by police, who fired tear gas several times at the crowd, said Arema fan Rezqi Wahyu. “More and more of them came and the stadium was getting chaotic because they came from all sections to vent their disappointment at players,” he wrote on Twitter.

The incident prompted Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to order suspension of top-tier Liga 1 competition pending a review.

“I offer condolences on the death of 120 of our compatriots in the football tragedy at Kanjuruhan,” Jokowi said in a statement.

“I have also ordered PSSI [the Indonesian Football Association] to stop Liga 1 temporarily until an evaluation and improvements have been made,” he added.

“I regret this tragedy and hope this is the last,” he said. “Together we must maintain sportsmanship, humanitarianism and brotherhood.”

Meanwhile, PSSI chairman said that a team had been sent to Malang to investigate the incident and blamed unruly Arema fans for the tragedy. 

“We regret the action of Arema supporters at Kanjuruhan Stadium,” PSSI chief Mochamad Iriawan said.

“We offer condolences and apologize to the victims' families and all of those affected by the incident,” he said.

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