Live Updates: Death Toll Rises After Indonesian Soccer Match
More than 170 people died Saturday night after a professional soccer match in Malang, Indonesia, when fans rushed the field, prompting the police to fire tear gas into tightly packed crowds, causing many to be trampled, according to local officials.
After the Arema football club lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya, dozens of fans rushed the field at Kanjuruhan Stadium, Arema’s home.
The unrest prompted the police to fire tear gas, which caused panic, Inspector General Nico Afinta, the East Java Police chief, said at a news conference. As of Sunday night, 174 people were dead, according to Emil Elestianto Dardak, East Java’s vice governor. An additional 309 had been injured.
This makes Saturday’s match among the deadliest episodes in the history of soccer. In 1964, at least 300 people died in Peru after an unpopular decision by a referee at a soccer game touched off a riot at the country’s national stadium.
Human rights organizations have condemned the use of tear gas, but the police called it necessary in this case, saying that fans were attacking officers. The use of the chemical is prohibited by FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. Eyewitnesses have said that the gas was at times fired indiscriminately into the stands, forcing the overcapacity crowd to rush for the exits.
In a televised speech to the nation, President Joko Widodo said he had asked the national police chief to do a thorough investigation into what happened. He said he had also ordered the minister of youth and sports, the national police chief and the chairman of Indonesia’s football association to evaluate security at soccer matches.
“I regret that this tragedy occurred,” Mr. Joko said. “And I hope this is the last football tragedy in the country.
In a statement, Indonesia’s Legal Aid Foundation said “the excessive use of force through the use of tear gas and inappropriate crowd control was the cause of the large number of fatalities.”
The East Java police chief, Mr. Afinta, defended the use of tear gas, saying it was deployed “because there was anarchy.”
“They were about to attack the officers and had damaged the cars,” he said.
Indonesia’s Legal Aid Foundation said the problem was made worse by the overcapacity. Mahfud MD, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, said that the local football committee had printed 42,000 tickets, more than the stadium’s 38,000 capacity.
He said the victims died “because of the stampede.” They were trampled on and suffocated to death, he said. “There were no victims of beatings or mistreatment of the supporters,” he said.
The medical team carried out rescue efforts in the stadium and then evacuated others to several hospitals, Chief Afinta said at the news conference.
The soccer league, PT Liga Indonesia Baru, suspended play for at least a week and offered its condolences in a statement. The national governing body for soccer, the P.S.S.I., also offered condolences and said an investigation was underway. It also appeared to cast blame on fans of the Arema club, saying it “regrets the action” of Arema fans.
Soccer violence has long been a problem for Indonesia. Violent, often deadly rivalries between major teams are common. Some teams even have fan clubs with so-called commanders, who lead large groups of supporters to matches across Indonesia. Flares are often thrown on the field, and riot police are a regular presence at many matches. Since the 1990s, dozens of fans have been killed in soccer-related violence.
Sui-Lee Wee reported from Bangkok, and Muktita Suhartono from Jakarta. Dera Menra Sijabat contributed reporting from Jakarta, and Damien Cave from Sydney, Australia.