Indonesian police under fire after stadium tragedy

Indonesian police under fire after stadium drama


“The police have gone too far”: after the crowd movement that killed at least 125 people in a football stadium in Indonesia, voices are raised on Sunday to denounce the use of tear gas by the security forces against the thousands of supporters who had invaded the field. 

This tragedy, one of the worst to have taken place in a stadium, which took place on Saturday evening in the city of Malang (east of the island of Java), also left 323 injured, according to a latest report.

It all started when fans of local team Arema FC entered the pitch at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang City after their team lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya, the nearby town.

The stadium held 42,000 people and was full, according to authorities. About 3,000 of them invaded the field after the game.

Police, who called the incident a 'riot', tried to persuade fans to return to the stands and fired tear gas at the audience after two officers were killed, leading to a scuffle and protest. uncontrolled crowd. Many victims were trampled on.

Revised toll

Deputy Governor of East Java Province Emil Dardak announced on Sunday evening a downward revision of the balance sheet, which goes from 174 to 125 dead, due to double counting.

“Today's death toll is 125; 124 were identified and one was not. Some names had been registered twice,” the official told Metro TV.

“The players passed with victims in their arms,” ​​Arema FC coach Javier Roca told Spanish radio Cadena Ser. “It was like an avalanche […], everything took on dramatic proportions because of the number of people who wanted to flee”, he continued, believing that “the police went too far”.

“Looking at the images, they [the police, editor's note] could perhaps have used other methods”, he continued.

Survivors described spectators panicked, blocked by the crowd, when the police fired tear gas canisters.

Footage taken inside the stadium shows a huge amount of gas and people clinging to the barriers, trying to escape. Others carry injured onlookers and fight their way through the chaos.

“Police threw tear gas, and people immediately rushed out, pushing each other, and it caused a lot of victims,” Doni, a 43-year-old spectator, told AFP, who declined to give his last name.

“There was nothing, no riots. I don't know what happened, they suddenly threw tear gas,” he said.


Amnesty International called for an investigation “into the use of tear gas” by the police and asked that those who “committed violations be tried”.

Interviewed by AFP, Sam Gilang , a survivor, who lost three friends, spoke of the “terrifying, absolutely shocking” incident.

“People were pushing each other […] and many were trampled on their way to the exit. My eyes were burning from the tear gas. Luckily I managed to climb over a fence and survived.”

In Jakarta, some 300 football fans, including 'ultras', gathered for a funeral wake outside the stadium Gelora Bung Karno, the largest in Indonesia. Some chanted “Murderers!” and threw off fireworks in protest.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Sunday ordered “a comprehensive assessment of football matches and security procedures.” He asked the National Football Association to suspend all matches until there are 'security improvements'.

In front of the stadium, charred vehicles including a truck police, littered the streets on Sunday, testifying to the anger of the population after this tragedy.

The Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) made its mea culpa and many reactions poured in from the world football in shock.

This disaster is “a tragedy beyond imagining”, said the president of the International Football Federation (FIFA), Gianni Infantino.


The Secretary General of the National Football Association PSSI, Yunus Yussi, said he had communicated with FIFA about this dramatic incident, hoping to avoid sanctions from the international body.


FIFA indeed prohibits in its recommendations the use of tear gas for crowd control on the pitch.

Manchester United clubs Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain defender Sergio Ramos expressed condolences online, along with Serie A, Italy, and the German Football Association.

In Spain, a minute's silence will be observed in stadiums ahead of Sunday's league games.

During his Sunday Angelus in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis said to pray “for those who lost their lives and were injured in the clashes.”

Fan violence has been a long-standing problem in Indonesia, where club rivalries have often turned into deadly clashes.

Some matches – the biggest being the derby between Persija Jakarta and Persib Bandung – are so tense that players from top teams have to go there under heavy protection.

For Saturday's match, Persebaya Surabaya fans were not allowed to buy tickets for fear let there be incidents.

Indonesia is set to host the U-20 World Cup next year at several stadiums across the country, but Malang is not one of them.

In 1989, a mob at Hillsborough Stadium in Britain killed 97 Liverpool fans, and in 2012 Egypt's Port Said Stadium suffered another tragedy with 74 dead.

In 1964, 320 people died and more than 1000 were injured during a crowd movement at the national stadium of Lima, during a qualifying match between Peru and Argentina.