Indonesians are demanding answers after a football match between two rival clubs Arema F.C. vs Persebaya Surabaya turned into one of the worst disasters in the sport’s history.
What happened at the stadium in Malang, East Java, which led to such a high number of casualties? More than 170 people lost their lives and another 180 were injured after a football match in Indonesia erupted into rioting and stampede on Saturday night.
The incident in East Java province has sparked outrage and grief in Indonesia, where sports commentators and activists have slammed what they see as excessive use of force by police, and authorities have pledged to investigate. Questions are being asked about locked gates at the stadium, which was packed well over capacity, and about holding a match that local football experts had identified as ‘high risk’ due to the bitter rivalry between the two teams.
Riots broke out after the game ended on Saturday evening, with host Arema FC of East Java’s Malang city losing to Persebaya of Surabaya 3-2.
After their team’s loss, thousands of Arema supporters, known as “Aremania,” reacted by throwing bottles and other objects at players and football officials. Fans flooded the Kanjuruhan Stadium pitch in protest and demanded that Arema management explain why, after 23 years of undefeated home games, this match ended in a loss, witnesses said.
The rioting spread outside the stadium where at least five police vehicles were toppled and set ablaze amid the chaos. Riot police responded by firing tear gas, including towards the stadium’s stands, causing panic among the crowd. Tear gas is banned at football stadiums by FIFA.
Some fans suffocated and others were trampled as hundreds of people ran to the exit to avoid the tear gas. In the chaos, 34 died at the stadium, including two officers, and some reports include children among the casualties.
Officers fired teargas in response to a pitch invasion by fans at the overcrowded stadium in Malang regency, East Java, on Saturday night, creating panic among supporters. Three witnesses told the Guardian teargas was fired not only at fans on the pitch but also at crowds who had remained in the stands, and that no warning was given.
“All those responsible should be held accountable for this disaster, regardless of their status or position. It’s not enough for the national police and the Football Association of Indonesia to conduct their investigation because they may be tempted to downplay or undermine full accountability for officials involved,” Phil Robertson (the deputy Asia director for Human Rights) said.