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'Fans died in players' arms': At least 125 dead after stampede at Indonesian football stadium

The death toll was revised from 175 because of double counting.

Injured people receive medical treatment in a hospital in Malang in Indonesia
Injured people receive medical treatment in a hospital in Malang in Indonesia
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Updated Oct 2nd 2022, 6:50 PM

AT LEAST 125 people have died at an Indonesian football stadium when thousands of angry home fans invaded the pitch and police responded with tear gas that triggered a stampede.

The tragedy last night in the city of Malang, which also left 323 injured according to police, was one of the world’s deadliest sporting stadium disasters.

Chilean football coach Javier Roca said today that “fans died in the arms of players” and claimed tear gas-firing police fatally “over-stepped” the mark.

indonesia-malang-football-match-stampede Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Arema FC supporters at the Kanjuruhan stadium stormed the pitch after their team lost 3-2 to the visiting team and bitter rivals, Persebaya Surabaya.

“The most terrible thing was when victims came to be treated by the team doctor. About 20 people arrived and four died. Fans died in the arms of players,” Arema coach Roca told Spanish broadcaster Cadena Ser.

“I’m mentally shattered. I feel a heavy burden, even a heavy responsibility.”

Police, who described the unrest as “riots”, said they tried to force fans to return to the stands and fired tear gas after two officers were killed.

Many of the victims were trampled or choked to death, according to police.

East Java deputy governor Emil Dardak told broadcaster Metro TV that the revised estimated death toll was significantly lowering officials’ earlier count of 174 because of double counting.

indonesia-soccer-deaths People looking for their family members inspect photographs of the victims provided by volunteers Source: Dicky Bisinglasi/PA

Survivors described panicking spectators in a packed crowd as tear gas rained down on them.

President Joko Widodo ordered an investigation into the tragedy, a safety review into all football matches and directed the country’s football association to suspend all matches until “security improvements” were completed.

A hospital director told local TV that one of the victims was five years old.

indonesia-soccer-deaths Source: Trisnadi/PA

Amnesty International called for an investigation into why tear gas was deployed in a confined space, saying it should only be used “when other methods have failed”.

People carried injured spectators through the chaos and survivors lugged lifeless bodies out of the stadium.

“It was so terrifying, so shocking,” 22-year-old survivor Sam Gilang, who lost three friends in the crush, told AFP.

featureimage Fans invade the pitch during clashes between supporters at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, Indonesia Source: Yudha Prabowo/AP

The stadium holds 42,000 people and authorities said it was a sell-out. Police said 3,000 people stormed the pitch.

Fan violence is an enduring problem in Indonesia, where deep rivalries have previously turned into deadly confrontations. Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya are longtime rivals.

Persebaya Surabaya fans were not allowed to buy tickets for the game due to fears of violence.

However Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Mahfud MD, said organisers ignored a recommendation to print fewer tickets and hold the match in the afternoon instead of the evening.

On Sunday, Arema fans threw flower petals at the club’s lion mascot monument outside the stadium in tribute to the victims.
indonesia-malang-football-match-stampede-clash-casualties A police officer ties a rope around a burnt car outside the Kanjuruhan Stadium Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

In Jakarta as many as 300 football fans, including some known as diehard “ultras”, gathered for a candlelit vigil outside the Gelora Bung Karno stadium, Indonesia’s biggest. Some chanted “Murderer!” and set off firecrackers.

Football world mourns
The football world mourned the disaster with Gianni Infantino, president of world football governing body FIFA, calling the stampede “a tragedy beyond comprehension”.

Manchester United and Barcelona posted tributes online while Spanish football clubs were to observe a minute’s silence before matches on Sunday as a mark of respect.

The Asian Football Confederation, the governing body for football in the region, expressed its regret at the loss of life.

The Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) was in touch with FIFA about the stampede and hoped to avoid sanctions, PSSI secretary general Yunus Yussi told a press conference.

FIFA’s safety guidelines prohibit the carrying of crowd control gas by police or stewards at pitchside.

Indonesia is to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in May.

It is also bidding to replace China as host of the 2023 Asian Cup alongside South Korea and Qatar, with a decision due this month.

embedded269092083 Security officers detain a fan during clashes between supporters at Kanjuruhan Stadium Source: Yudha Prabowo/AP

Saturday’s game is already among the world’s worst crowd disasters, including the 1996 World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City where more than 80 died and some 100 others were injured.

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