At least 127 people have been killed and about 200 more injured, police say, after chaos and violence erupted late Saturday after an Indonesian football match between two of the country’s biggest teams.
Supporters of Arema FC and rival Persebaya Surabaya came to blows after home side Arema FC was beaten 3-2 in a game in the city of Malang in East Java.
Supporters of the losing team had ‘invaded’ the field and police fired tear gas, sparking a stampede that led to suffocation, East Java police chief Nico Afinta said at a press conference after the event.
“First of all, there was a riot,” Nico said.
“From Saturday’s incident (so far) 127 people have died, including two members of the police,” he said. Nearly 200 people were also injured, he added.
Videos filmed late into the night from the stadium and shared on social media showed fans dressed in red and blue storming the pitch and clashing with Indonesian security forces, who appeared to be wearing riot gear.
Video footage broadcast on local news channels also showed images of body bags, Reuters reported.
Smoke, which appeared to be tear gas, was later in videos, in which several people are carried into a building. The severity of their injuries remained unclear. Officials said many had been admitted to nearby hospitals, suffering from “lack of oxygen and shortness of breath”.
According to Nico, their supporters stormed onto the pitch when Arema FC lost 2-3 in the match against Persebaya Surabaya.
Located in East Java, Kanjuruhan Stadium is mainly used for football matches and is estimated to hold 42,500 people.
Although officials have not yet confirmed how many people were in the stadium during Saturday night’s game, video footage and photos taken by fans showed full stands of people.
There have been previous outbreaks of problems at matches in Indonesia, with strong rivalry between clubs sometimes leading to violence among supporters.
The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) has suspended matches next week due to the deadly tragedy and banned Arema FC from hosting matches for the rest of the season.
“PSSI regrets the actions of Aremania supporters at Kanjuruhan Stadium,” the association’s president, Mochamad Iriawan, said in a statement released on Sunday.
He added that the incident had “tarnished the face of Indonesian football” and that they were supporting official investigations into the event.
“We are sorry and apologize to the families of the victims and all parties for the incident,” he said.
“Before that, PSSI immediately formed an investigation team and immediately left for Malang,” he added.
DailyExpertNews contacted FIFA, football’s international governing body, for a statement, but did not immediately hear back.
Persebaya released a statement expressing their condolences saying: “Persebaya’s large family expresses their deepest condolences for the loss of life following the Arema FC vs. Persebaya. No life is worth football.”
“Alfatihah to the victims and may the family left behind gain strength.”
There is increasing criticism of the way the Indonesian police are handling the event. In a statement released Sunday, the Indonesian Police Watch (IPW) watchdog group called for accountability and the “removal” of Malang police chief Ferli Hidayat. “This is the worst event in Indonesian football. The police chief should be ashamed and step down,” IPW said.
“The death toll must be thoroughly investigated and President Jokowi must pay attention,” it added.