At least 125 people were killed after a stampede erupted at an Indonesian soccer game Saturday, in what is being considered one of the deadliest events in the history of sports.
The scene took place as Arema FC and rival Persebaya Surabaya faced off in Malang in East Java, when Arema FC lost 3-2. While attempting to have upset fans leave the field after they invaded the pitch, officers fired tear gas, East Java Police chief Inspector General Nico Afinta said at a news conference, per the New York Times. Another 320 people were reported to be injured.
"We have already done a preventive action before finally firing the tear gas as [fans] began to attack the police, acting anarchically and burning vehicles," he told a news conference Sunday, per the Associated Press.
Videos from the event shared on social media show fans running on the field, and smoke filling the air, likely as a result of the tear gas. Fans could be seen, especially in photos taken at the event, being carried out of the venue, as police vehicles also appeared to be toppled over. Spectators told the AP that people were trampled and suffocated as fans ran to exits to avoid the police tear gas.
While the death toll from Saturday night has fluctuated from 174 to 125, East Java Deputy Governor Emil Dardak shared that the larger number may have included people who were counted more than once.
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An investigation by the national police chief as well as an evaluation of soccer security were both requested by Indonesia's president Joko Widodo, who in a televised speech, ordered the Indonesian Football Association to temporarily suspend the Indonesian League, pending an evaluation.
"I have specially requested the police chief to investigate and get to the bottom of this case," Jokowi said. "Sportsmanship, humanity and brotherhood should be upheld in Indonesia."
"I regret that this tragedy occurred. And I hope this is the last football tragedy in the country."
President Joko Widodo also intervened and ordered the PSSI (Indonesian Football Association) to temporarily suspend the Indonesian League until a thorough evaluation was carried out.pic.twitter.com/4u4AaKXnC6
— WKWKLAND UPDATE (@wkwklandupdate) October 2, 2022
An attendee going by the name Rizky told the AP that "the stadium turned into a smoke-filled battleground when police fired tear gas."
"I felt hot and stinging in my eyes, I couldn't see clearly while my head was dizzy and everything went dark," he said. "I passed out."
Another attendee, Ahmad Fatoni, claimed that authorities beat fans with sticks and shields at the stadium, which prompted fans to retaliate. "Officers fired tear gas directly at spectators in the stands, forcing us to run toward the exit," he said. "Many victims fell because of shortness of breath and difficulty seeing due to tear gas and were trampled."
More than 100 people died after a riot broke out at an Liga 1 football match between Arema and Persebaya at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, Indonesia #NewsBreak #news #BreakingNews #Indonesia #malang #FIFAMobileIndonesia #fifa #FIFA23 #soccer pic.twitter.com/tpgYPUAfnw
— That Guy Shane (@ProfanityNewz) October 1, 2022
Following the stampede, FIFA President Gianni Infantino issued a statement about the sport's community being in a "state of shock following the tragic incidents that have taken place."
FIFA has notably advised against the use of tear gas at soccer stadiums, as multiple outlets point out, regulating against "crowd control gas" and firearms by police at events.
"This is a dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension. I extend my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims who lost their lives following this tragic incident," he shared. "Together with FIFA and the global football community, all our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, those who have been injured, together with the people of the Republic of Indonesia, the Asian Football Confederation, the Indonesian Football Association, and the Indonesian Football League, at this difficult time."