There have been at least 174 fatalities and about 180 people injured at a football game in Indonesia resulting from teargas used by present authorities who were trying to stave off fans who were rioting and invading the pitch. This in turn caused the panicking crowd to disburse and trample each other.
The organizers of the event and the police are facing criticism over the use of teargas inside the stadium as it conflicts with FIFA guidance and resulted in one of the worst disasters in stadium sports history. Rights experts call for answers after pointing out safety guidance which states that “crowd control gas” is prohibited by authorities and officials around the perimeter of the field.
The commotion took place on Saturday, October 1, 2022, in East Java at the Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang regency after Persebaya Surabaya defeated their competitor, Javanese club Arema in a match.
Reportedly, Nico Afinta, East Java’s police chief stated that the fans of the losing team charged the pitch in droves, causing law enforcement to set off the tear gas which led to people being crushed, trampled and suffocated in the struggle to get away. Two officers were among the deceased.
“They went out to one point at the exit, then there was a buildup – in the process of accumulation there was shortness of breath, lack of oxygen,” Afinta said. The youngest victim accounted for was 5 years old.
Gianni Infantino, The FIFA president, declared that the event is “a dark day” for all football enthusiasts and “a tragedy beyond comprehension”. He extended his condolences to the friends and family members of the deceased and voiced that “The football world is in a state of shock.”
Joko Widodo, the Indonesian president, ordered law enforcement to reassess security measures at football matches and commanded the postponement of Liga 1 matches as images and footage of the tragedy on social media showcased the chaos of spectators pushing to elude the teargas and others trying to get the injured out of harm’s way.
Usman Hamid, Amnesty International’s executive director for Indonesia, voiced that there must be answers for the many lives lost and implored the police to sanction those who have committed rule violations in open court instead of issuing mere slaps on the wrist.
The revision of teargas as a police weapon is also being called out to avoid such future devastation. Amnesty remarked that teargas should only be used in cases of widespread violence and only if other methods fail. He also said that people should be notified beforehand that it will be used.
Another issue raised was the venue being filled past capacity after Mahfud MD, Indonesia’s chief security minister, made an Instagram post on Sunday that tallied the total number of tickets to 42,000 when the maximum stadium capacity was 38,000 people.
Wiyanto Wijoyo, head of the Malang regency’s health office, says that the number of injured spectators is still being tallied.
Reportedly, local reporters stated that around 3,000 onlookers rushed the pitch and more hostilities transpired outside the stadium where vehicles were torched, police trucks included. The destroyed vehicles lined the streets following the aftermath.
Zainudin Amali, Indonesian sports and youth minister said, “We’re sorry for this incident … this is a regrettable incident that ‘injures’ our football at a time when supporters can watch football matches from the stadium.” He promised to thoroughly investigate what transpired on Saturday.
Continuing, he announced that the organization and supporters attending the match will be evaluated and they will discuss if banning supporters will once again be implemented.
Mahfud MD also pointed out that event organizers ignored the recommendation of hosting the event in the afternoon as opposed to in the evening.
Football violence has been a long-standing issue in Indonesia. According to government officials who spoke to Channel News Asia back in June, 78 people have fallen victim to fatal football-related accidents.
An investigation into the incident will be carried out as stated by the Indonesian football association (PSSI).
Akhmad Hadian Lukita, president director of PT Liga Indonesia Baru mentioned, “We announced the decision [to suspend the league] after we received a direction from the chairman of PSSI.” Continuing, he remarked that this is being done “to respect everything” while awaiting the investigative procedures of the PSSI.
Watch the report below.