The violence, tear gas and a fatal crush that erupted following a domestic league soccer game on Saturday night marked another tragedy in Indonesian football. Here is an overview of how the chaos happened and what is being done to prevent future incidents:
HOW DID THE CHAOS OCCUR?
Chaos erupted after Persebaya Surabaya beat Arema Malang 3-2 in Saturday night’s match in the city of Malang in East Java province. Police said there were some 42,000 spectators at the stadium, all of whom were Arema supporters as the organizer banned Persebaya supporters in a bid to avoid fights.
But a disappointing Arema defeat – the first game lost to Persebaya at their home stadium – prompted angry spectators to take to the pitch after the game to demand answers. Fans threw bottles and other objects at players and football officials and the violence spread outside the stadium, where at least five police cars were overturned and set on fire and others damaged . Riot police responded with tear gas, which is banned in football stadiums by FIFA. But it caused panic.
Hundreds of onlookers rushed to an exit door to avoid tear gas, resulting in a crash that trampled or suffocated 34 people to death almost instantly, with many more fatalities to follow from injuries.
HOW MANY PEOPLE DIED?
In one of the worst sporting disasters, police say at least 125 people died, including children and two police officers, most of whom were trampled.
More than 100 people were injured. Police said the death toll was likely to rise further with several people in critical condition.
Data from an Indonesian football watchdog organisation, Save Our Soccer, said at least 86 football fans had died since 1995, most of them in fights.
WHY DOES SOCCER CREATE VIOLENCE?
Football is the most popular sport in Indonesia and the domestic league is widely followed. Fans are strongly attached to their clubs, and such fanaticism often ends in violence and hooliganism. But that usually happens outside the stadium.
The best known feud is between Persija Jakarta and Persib Bandung. Supporters of the two clubs have clashed in several matches which have resulted in fatalities. In 2018, a Persija Jakarta supporter was beaten to death by Persib Bandung rivals.
Indonesian football has also been plagued with problems on the international stage. Fights broke out between supporters of Indonesian and Malaysian arch-rivals in 2019 during this year’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers. In September 2019, Malaysian fans were threatened and pelted with projectiles during a World Cup qualifier in Jakarta, and the visiting Malaysian sports minister had to be evacuated from the stadium after violence broke out. Two months later, fans threw flares and bottles at each other at another game in Kuala Lumpur.
Also in 2019, after losing in the final of the U-22 game against Vietnam at the Southeast Asian Games, Indonesian fans took to social media to insult, harass and send death threats to Vietnamese players. and even their families.
In June, two Persib Bandung fans died while jostling to enter Bandung Stadium to watch the 2022 President’s Cup. Angry fans turned aggressive because officers on the ground did not allow them to enter the already full stadium.
WHAT DOES THE GOVERNMENT DO ?
Indonesian President Joko Widodo expressed his deepest regrets and ordered a full investigation into the deaths. He also ordered Premier League football suspended until a security reassessment is carried out and tighter security is put in place. Widodo said he hoped “this tragedy will be the last football tragedy in Indonesia”.
The Indonesian football association also banned Arema from hosting football matches for the rest of the season. Rights group Amnesty International has urged Indonesia to investigate the use of tear gas at the stadium and ensure those found guilty of violations are tried in open court.
This story was originally published October 2, 2022 4:17 a.m.