By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
Some 180 others were injured in what was rapidly becoming the world’s worst-known stadium disaster in decades, according to authorities.
The violence erupted at the end of a match between the Javanese clubs Arema and Persebaya Surabaya after Arema was defeated 3-2 in the Malang Regency of East Java province.
Footage seen by Worthy News showed police firing tear gas into crowds upset over the home team’s loss, causing a stampede. Many suffered breathing problems and suffocated as they tried to exit the Kanjuruhan Stadium, Arema’s home, police said.
Images revealed vast amounts of tear gas and people clambering over fences. People were carrying injured spectators through the chaos.
Amid the turbulence, people were shouting obscenities at police, who were holding riot shields, according to footage circulating on social media.
At least two police officers were among the dead, East Java Police Chief Nico Afinta told reporters. Thirty-four people died at the scene, Afinta explained, adding that the rest passed away at hospitals.
PRESIDENT BANS MATCHES
Soon after the riots, President Joko Widodo ordered that all matches in Indonesia’s top league be stopped until an investigation had been concluded. “I regret that this tragedy occurred,” Joko said. “And I hope this is the last football tragedy in the country.”
Indonesia’s chief security minister, Mahfud MD, complained that the number of spectators exceeded the capacity of the Kanjuruhan stadium, contributing to the high death toll.
He explained on social media Sunday that 42,000 tickets were sold for a stadium that could hold 38,000 people, adding to the high death toll.
Local reports said up to 3,000 spectators had taken to the field out of a crowd of more than 40,000, which soon escalated into violence.
Hours later, torched vehicles, including a police truck, littered the streets outside the stadium on Sunday morning. Police said 13 vehicles were damaged, including ten police cars.
The riots were the worst stadium violence in Indonesia, and the world, in at least 40 years, but no isolated incident. Earlier this year, in January in Cameroon, at least eight people died, and 38 were injured in a stampede at the Yaounde Olembe Stadium before the host country’s Africa Cup of Nations game against Comoros.
EGYPT SOCCER RIOTS
A decade earlier, in February 2012, fans rioted at the end of a match between rivals Al-Masry and Al-Ahly in Port Said in Egypt. At least 73 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured, and the Egyptian league was suspended for two years.
In March 2009, in Ivory Coast, at least 19 people were killed during a stampede at Abidjan’s Felix Houphouet-Boigny stadium before a World Cup soccer qualifying match against Malawi.
Earlier in May 2001 in Ghana, some 126 people were killed in a stampede at Accra’s main soccer stadium when police fired tear gas at rioting fans in one of Africa’s worst soccer disasters.
Elsewhere in April 2001 in South Africa, at least 43 people were crushed to death when soccer fans tried to force their way into Johannesburg’s giant Ellis Park Stadium midway through a top South African league match. A decade earlier, in South Africa, some 42 people died in a stampede during a preseason game at the Oppenheimer Stadium in the mining town of Orkney between the Kaizer Chiefs and the Orlando Pirates. A Pirates fan had attacked Chiefs supporters in the crowd with a knife on that fateful day in January 1991.
In October 1996, in Guatemala, up to 82 people died, and at least 147 were injured when an avalanche of fans fell down seats and a flight of stairs at a World Cup qualifying match between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City.
Europe suffered too, including in May 1992, when in France, a stand at Bastia’s Furiani Stadium collapsed before a French Cup semi-final against Olympique de Marseille, killing 18 and injuring more than 2,300. Last year, the French parliament passed a law banning professional matches from taking place in the country on May 5 in memory of the victims.
BRITAIN ALSO SUFFERING
Years earlier, in April 1989 in Britain, some 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death in an over-crowded and fenced-in enclosure at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield before an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. One victim died last June, 32 years after suffering severe and irreversible brain damage at Hillsborough.
Also, in Britain, in May 1985, at least 56 people were killed and more than 200 injured when a fire broke out in the stands at the Valley Parade stadium in Bradford during a third division match against Lincoln City.
That same month in 1985 in Belgium, some 39 fans died, and more than 600 were injured in fan violence before the European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels.
And in Russia in October 1982, supporters were crushed as they left a UEFA Cup tie between Spartak Moscow and Dutch team HFC Haarlem at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Officials from the then Soviet Union did not disclose the tragedy for years. When they did, they gave an official death toll of 66, although the number who died in a stampede at one exit could have been as high as 340.
In Asia, Nepal also saw a tragedy in March 1988 when a stampede towards locked exits in a hailstorm at its national soccer stadium in Kathmandu killed more than 90 fans.
The incidents led to calls for more security and safety measures in and around stadiums, but authorities have often apparently been unwilling or unable to improve the situation.
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