The incident in East Java province has sparked outrage and grief in Indonesia, where sports commentators and activists denounce what they see as excessive use of force by the police, and authorities have pledged to investigate.
Questions are being raised about closed gates at the stadium, which was overcrowded, and about hosting a match that local football pundits had labeled ‘high risk’ due to the bitter rivalry between the two teams.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MATCH?
The match between home side Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya ended with a 3-2 loss to the former, a huge disappointment considering that Arema had not lost a home game to Persebaya in 23 years, according to police and a local football expert.
The result infuriated many in the crowd, which was almost entirely made up of Arema supporters after police banned Persebaya supporters from attending for fear of violent clashes.
Excited Arema FC fans poured onto the pitch after the game to express their frustration, leading to clashes with police, who fired tear gas to disperse them.
The tear gas sent waves of panic through the crowd, with many becoming entangled in the twinkling of an eye as they tried to escape. According to authorities, 125 people have died, including 32 minors.
WHY WAS THE DEATH TOTAL SO HIGH?
The severity of the disaster at the stadium was due to a combination of factors, including an overcrowded hall, poor safety planning and a lack of communication between organizers and police.
Although the stadium in Malang has several exits, spectators told Reuters that some of them were locked during Saturday’s game, causing bottlenecks and chaos as fans tried to flee. Doctors said some victims died of asphyxiation, while others suffered head injuries.
Police in the stadium are also being prosecuted for using tear gas, banned by the world football governing body, FIFA. Police in Indonesia occasionally use tear gas to disperse street demonstrations, but usually do not do so at sporting events.
HOW DOES IT COMPARE WITH OTHER SPORTS RAMS?
Indonesia has a history of violence and hooliganism, especially in major urban centers such as Jakarta, but the scale of this incident is unprecedented and is among the worst in the world in recent decades.
In 1964, 328 people were killed when Peru hosted Argentina at the Estadio Nacional in Lima, while in the late 1980s 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed when an overcrowded and gated fence collapsed at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
Indonesia’s Security Minister, Mahfud MD, has formed an independent investigative team to investigate the stampede, while President Joko Widodo has ordered the country’s football association to suspend all games in the premier league, known as Liga 1.
FIFA has requested a report on the incident, describing it as a “dark day for all concerned”.
The government will provide 50 million rupiah ($3,268) in compensation to each of the victims’ families, while hundreds of injured people will be treated free of charge.
Police and football organizations are also increasingly being asked to formulate ways to work more closely together to prevent similar disasters in the future.