Here’s how the chaos started and what’s being done to prevent future incidents.
HOW DID THE CHAOS COME?
Chaos then broke out Persebaya Surabaya defeated rival Arema Malang 3-2 in Saturday night’s game in the city of Malang in the East Java province. Police said there were some 42,000 spectators at the stadium, all of them Arema supporters, because the organizer had banned Persebaya fans in an effort to avoid brawls.
In photos: More than 150 people killed after stampede at football game
More than 150 people were killed and about 180 injured at a football match in Indonesia after a massive stampede during a riot, police said, in what appears to be one of the world’s worst stadium disasters. (AP photo)
But a disappointing loss to Arema – the first game lost at rival Persebaya’s home stadium – saw angry spectators flocking to the field after the game to demand answers. Fans threw bottles and other objects at players and football officials and riots spread outside the stadium, overturning and setting fire to at least five police cars and damaging others. Riot police responded with tear gas, which is banned by FIFA in football stadiums. But it caused panic.
Hundreds of spectators rushed to an exit gate to dodge the tear gas, resulting in a stampede in which 34 were almost immediately trampled to death or suffocated, with many more dead from injuries.
HOW MANY PEOPLE DIE?
In what appeared to be one of the worst sports disasters in the world, police said at least 174 people died, including children and two police officers, most of whom were trampled.
More than 100 people were injured. Police said the death toll is likely to rise further with several people in critical condition.
Data from an Indonesian football watchdog organization, Save Our Soccer, shows that since 1995 at least 86 Indonesian football supporters have died in connection with supporting their club during the match. Most of them died as a result of the fights between fans.
The riots and stampede on Saturday will add to the long list of events in which fans died supporting their football club.
WHY DOES FOOTBALL CAUSE VIOLENCE?
Football is the most popular sport in Indonesia and the national competition is widely followed. Fans are strongly attached to their clubs and such fanaticism often ends in violence and hooliganism. But the riots between the supporters usually take place outside the stadium.
Stampede, riots at Indonesia football match kill 129, competition suspended https://t.co/Yx7xiOjWul
— Reuters (@Reuters) 1664693708000
The most famous feud is between Persija Jakarta and Persib Bandung. Supporters of the two clubs clashed in several matches resulting in deaths. In 2018, a supporter of Persija Jakarta was beaten to death by rivals of Persib Bandung.
Indonesian football is also struggling with problems on the international stage. In 2019, brawls broke out between supporters of arch-rivals Indonesia and Malaysia during this year’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers. In September of that year, Malaysian fans were threatened and pelted with projectiles during a World Cup qualifier in Jakarta, and Malaysia’s visiting Sports Minister had to be evacuated from the stadium after violence erupted. Two months later, fans threw torches and bottles at each other in another match in Kuala Lumpur.
This is probably the worst tragedy in football history. It is reported around 127 dead, nearly 200 injured in… https://t.co/OvTKzrY6e9
— Eric Njiru (@EricNjiiru) 1664685672000
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 crowding to enter the stadium in Bandung to watch the 2022 President’s Cup. The angry supporters became aggressive because the officers on the field did not allow them to enter the already full stadium.
WHAT DOES THE GOVERNMENT DO?
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has expressed his deepest regret and ordered a thorough investigation into the matter. He has also ordered that the Premier League be suspended until a match safety reassessment is made and tighter security is in place. Widodo said he hoped “this tragedy will be the last tragedy of football in Indonesia.”
The Indonesian Football Association has also banned Arema from organizing football matches for the rest of the season. Rights group Amnesty International urged Indonesia to investigate the use of tear gas at the stadium and ensure that those caught committing violations are tried in public courts.