More than capacity, history of outbreaks; what triggered the stampede that killed 129 people at a soccer match in Indonesia

At least 129 people were killed and around 180 injured at a soccer match in Indonesia after panicked fans were trampled and crushed trying to flee during a riot, police said on Sunday, in what appeared to be one of the world’s worst stadium disasters.

When supporters of the losing home team invaded the pitch in East Java province on Saturday night to express their frustration, officers fired tear gas in an attempt to control the situation, triggering a stampede and cases of suffocation, East Java police chief Nico Afinta told reporters. “It had gotten anarchic. They started attacking officers, they damaged cars,” Nico said, adding that the crush occurred when fans fled for an exit gate.

Video footage from local news channels showed fans streaming onto the pitch in the stadium in Malang after Arema FC lost to Persebaya Surabaya. Scuffles can be seen, with what appeared to be tear gas in the air. Videos showed fans charging towards the centre of the field before they scattered, beat back by uniformed officers carrying batons and riot shields, as loud bangs and clouds of smoke erupted in the arena. People jumped over barriers and leaped onto railings as they fled, with the officers beating and kicking those on the field, as spectators looked on from the still-crowded stands.

Images showed people who appeared to have lost consciousness being carried away by other fans.The head of one of the hospitals in the area treating patients told Metro TV that some of the victims had sustained brain injuries and that the dead included a five-year-old child. World soccer’s governing body FIFA specifies in its safety regulations that no firearms or “crowd control gas” should be carried or used by stewards or police.

More than capacity

Indonesia’s chief security minister, Mahfud MD, said the number of spectators exceeded the capacity of the Kanjuruhan stadium. He said in an Instagram post on Sunday that 42,000 tickets had been issued for a stadium that had a capacity to hold 38,000 people.

“We’re sorry for this incident … this is a regrettable incident that ‘injures’ our football at a time when supporters can watch football matches from the stadium,” the Indonesian sports and youth minister, Zainudin Amali, told broadcaster Kompas.

“We will thoroughly evaluate the organisation of the match and the attendance of supporters. Will we return to banning supporters from attending the matches? That is what we will discuss.”

Financial aid would be given to the injured and the families of victims, East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa told reporters.

Similar outbreaks

There have been outbreaks of trouble at matches in Indonesia before, with strong rivalries between clubs sometimes leading to violence among supporters.​ Stadiums often only allow fans of the home team to attend to prevent fights. “Sampai mati,” or “until death,” is a common refrain among many dedicated Indonesian soccer fans. Violence associated with soccer spectating is so intense in Indonesia that teams often travel to games in armoured vehicles to avoid being pelted with rocks and other projectiles.

Zainudin Amali, Indonesia’s sports minister, told KompasTV the ministry would re-evaluate safety at football matches, including considering not allowing spectators in stadiums. The Indonesian top league BRI Liga 1 has suspended games for a week and an investigation had been launched, the Football Association of Indonesia said. Indonesia is scheduled to host the FIFA under-20 World Cup in May and June next year. “Hopefully this will be a valuable lesson for all of us,” said the head of the league, Akhmad Hadian Lukita.

They are also one of three countries bidding to stage next year’s Asian Cup, the continent’s equivalent of the Euros, after China pulled out as host


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