Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Sunday (Oct 2) ordered a probe into safety procedures underpinning the country’s football matches, after a deadly stampede in East Java killed at least 125 people and injured 323 others.
The police used tear gas in an overcrowded stadium to quell rioting by home fans, triggering the stampede and sparking one of the world’s worst stadium disasters.
“I deeply regret this tragedy and I hope this is the last football tragedy in this country. Don’t let another human tragedy like this happen in the future,” said Widodo, who also ordered all matches in Indonesia’s top football league to be suspended until the investigation has been carried out.
“We must continue to maintain sportsmanship, humanity and a sense of brotherhood of the Indonesian nation,” he added.
The president, better known as Jokowi, also ordered the youth and sports minister, the national police chief and the chairman of the Indonesia’s football association, known as PSSI, to conduct a thorough investigation of the match and its security procedures.
Meanwhile, the PSSI has suspended the premier league, Liga 1, indefinitely and banned Arema FC from hosting matches for the remainder of the season.
In Saturday evening’s match at the packed Kanjuruhan stadium, home team Arema FC, from Malang province, had lost 2-3 to arch-rival Persebaya Surabaya FC, sparking anger among its fans.
Water bottles and blunt objects were hurled at football officials and players and several vehicles, including police cars, were torched and overturned, reports said.
Videos taken in the stadium and posted on social media showed hundreds of supporters running onto the pitch after the final whistle, and the police pushing them back with batons. Tear gas, banned at football stadiums by world football’s governing body FIFA, was also fired to dispel the crowd.
Hundreds of people had surged towards the exits to escape the tear gas. Amid the panic and chaos, people had trampled on one another, fainted or suffocated.
Brigadier-General Nyoman Eddy Purnama Wirawan, who heads the national police medical bureau, said fans of the home team invaded the pitch in frustration after the match. “The supporters had rushed onto the field and attacked the players, both from Arema and Persebaya,” he said.
In Malang, grieving families tearfully browsed through photographs and identified the bodies of their loved ones at a morgue.
East Java police chief Nico Afinta said on Sunday that the police had to fire tear gas after fans began “acting anarchically”, attacking officers and burning vehicles.
Football violence and hooliganism is not uncommon in Indonesia. In 2018, a Persija Jakarta supporter was killed by a mob of hardcore fans of rival club Persib Bandung.