At least 170 people were trampled to death or suffocated after riots broke out on a football pitch in Indonesia.
Thousands of Arema FC supporters flooded the ground in East Java’s Malang city, throwing bottles and other objects at players and officials, after losing to Persebaya Surabaya – their first home defeat in 23 years.
The rioting spread outside Kanjuruhan Stadium where at least five police vehicles were overturned and set on fire amid the chaos.
Riot officers responded by firing tear gas – which is banned by Fifa – including towards the stadium’s stands, causing panic among the crowd.
Some people suffocated and others were trampled as hundreds of fans stampeded towards the exit to avoid the tear gas.
Dozens died at the stadium in the panice, including two officers. It appears children were also among the casualties.
It instantly becomes one of the deadliest sporting events the world has ever seen.
More than 300 people were rushed to nearby hospitals but many died on the way and during treatment, East Java police chief Nico Afinta said.
He said the death toll is likely to increase because many of the approximately 180 injured are deteriorating in intensive care.
Indonesia’s football association, known as PSSI, has suspended the premier league Liga 1 indefinitely and banned Arema from hosting matches for the remainder of the season.
Television reports showed police and rescuers evacuating the injured and carrying the dead to ambulances.
Grieving relatives waited for information about their loved ones at Malang’s Saiful Anwar General Hospital. Others tried to identify the bodies laid out at a morgue.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo expressed his deep condolences for the dead.
‘I deeply regret this tragedy and I hope this is the last soccer tragedy in this country. Don’t let another human tragedy like this happen in the future,’ he said.
‘We must continue to maintain sportsmanship, humanity and a sense of brotherhood of the Indonesian nation.’
He ordered the youth and sports minister, the national police chief and the chairman of the PSSI to carry out a thorough assessment of the match and its security procedures.
He also ordered the PSSI to temporarily suspend Liga 1 until it can be evaluated and security procedures improved.
Ferli Hidayat, local police chief of Malang, said there were some 42,000 spectators at Saturday’s game, all of whom were Aremanias because the organizer had banned Persebaya fans from entering the stadium in an effort to avoid brawls.
Despite Indonesia’s lack of international accolades in the sport, hooliganism is rife in the football-obsessed country where fanaticism often ends in violence, as in the 2018 death of a Persija Jakarta supporter who was killed by a mob of hardcore fans of rival club Persib Bandung in 2018.
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.
In April 2001, more than 40 people were crushed to death during a football match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.
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