Indonesia had one of the biggest stadium tragedies in recent decades this past weekend when a soccer match between two biggest rivals resulted in a stampede, killing at least 174 people.
Sports commentators and activists in Indonesia have condemned the police for what they consider excessive use of force following the event in East Java province, and the government has promised to conduct an investigation.
Concerns have been raised over the sealed gates of the stadium, which was crowded well above capacity, and the decision to hold a match that local football experts had deemed “high risk” due to the intense rivalry between the two sides.
Local news channels broadcasted live footage of people rushing into the Malang stadium’s football pitch as well as images of body bags.
Family members struggled to grasp the loss of their loved ones, including 17 children, at the match in Malang, East Java, attended largely by Arema FC supporters.
What Occurred During the Match?
Indonesians have a particular fondness for the sport of football, which can lead to heated rivalries between fans during matches.
Saturday’s encounter between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya resulted in a 3-2 setback for the home team. According to authorities and a local soccer expert, Arema has never lost a home game against Persebaya in 23 years.
The result shocked many in the crowd, which included almost entirely Arema supporters because the authorities prohibited Persebaya supporters from attending out of fear of violent conflicts.
Some of the 42,000 Arema supporters reportedly rushed onto the field in anger on Saturday after the loss.
Others began tossing bottles and other objects at the soccer team and the officials. Outside the stadium, at least five police vehicles were overturned and set ablaze. This led to clashes with police, who used tear gas to disperse them.
The fear caused by the tear gas caused many people to become stuck in the crowd as they attempted to escape. A total of 174 people, including 32 children, were allegedly killed, according to the authorities. Among the dead were two police officers.
The Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection reported that at least 17 children had been killed and another 7 were hospitalized.
According to the police, A total of 323 people were injured in the incident and some of them are still in critical condition.
Dedy Prasetyo, a spokesman for the National Police, stated that Malang police chief Ferli Hidayat and 9 members of an elite police mobile brigade had been removed from their positions and could face punishment in a police ethics trial.
He then added that an investigation is being conducted into the firing of tear gas by 18 officers of different ranks.
As part of their investigation, police are interviewing witnesses and analyzing footage from 32 security cameras inside and outside the stadium, as well as 9 cell phones belonging to the victims, he said. This information will be used to identify the accused.
Reason For High Death Troll
Several factors contributed to the tragedy at the stadium, including overcrowding, sloppy safety measures, and poor coordination between event organizers and law enforcement.
Even though the Malang stadium has multiple exit gates, many of them were locked on Saturday, leading to congestion and chaos as people attempted to leave the stadium. Some victims died of suffocation, while others sustained head injuries, according to medical staff.
The stadium’s police are also under review for employing tear gas, which is prohibited by FIFA, the international football governing body. In Indonesia, tear gas is occasionally used to suppress street riots, but is rarely used during sports matches.
If Compared to Other Historical Tragedies
Violence and football hooliganism has a long history in Indonesia, especially in major urban centers like Jakarta, the size of this tragedy is unique and ranks among the worst in the world in recent decades.
At the Estadio Nacional in Lima, Peru, 328 people lost their lives when Peru defeated Argentina in 1964. In the late 1980s, 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives when a fenced-in enclosure collapsed at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.
President Joko Widodo has ordered the suspension of all games in the top league, known as Liga 1, while senior security minister Mahfud MD has organized an independent fact-finding committee to investigate the stampede.
FIFA has demanded an investigation into the incident, which it described as “a dark day for all involved.”
The government will compensate each family of the victims with 50 million rupiah and hundreds of those who were injured would receive free medical care.
More and more people are demanding that law enforcement and football authorities find methods to coordinate their efforts to avoid future tragedies.
On Monday night, over one thousand black-shirted soccer fans gathered at a soccer stadium in the Jakarta satellite city of Bekasi to pray for the victims of the tragedy.