Deadly Indonesia soccer stadium disaster sparks probe into "dark day for football"

Malang, Indonedia - Indonesia set up an independent team on Monday to investigate the crowd surge at a soccer stadium that left at least 125 people dead and hundreds more injured over the weekend in one of the world's worst sports stadium disasters.

Videos from Saturday night's game showed tear gas in the crowd as people ran on the pitch after a match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java. At least 125 people died when fans invaded the pitch and police responded with firing tear gas, officials said.
Videos from Saturday night's game showed tear gas in the crowd as people ran on the pitch after a match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java. At least 125 people died when fans invaded the pitch and police responded with firing tear gas, officials said.  © STR / AFPTV / AFP

The joint independent fact-finding team will consist of government officials, soccer association officials, experts, academics, and journalists, said senior security minister Mohammad Mahfud.

"The team is expected to finish its work in two or three weeks," Mahfud said after a meeting of senior ministers and security officials to discuss the tragedy.

He said the government had also ordered the national police to investigate people deemed responsible for the incident "in the next few days" and evaluate security measures.

World Cup 2022: Saudis lose to Poland as Lewandowski nets first goal
Soccer World Cup 2022: Saudis lose to Poland as Lewandowski nets first goal

The disaster on Saturday night at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang city prompted Indonesian President Joko Widodo to order the suspension of the top-flight Liga 1 competition pending a review.

Most of the victims died of a lack of oxygen during a crowd crush after thousands of fans invaded the pitch as hosts Arema FC lost 3-2 to rival East Java club Persebaya Surabaya, police said.

More than 300 people were injured, some seriously, officials said, with at least 32 children reported dead.

Witnesses told local television that police chased spectators who invaded the pitch, forcing them to return to the stands.

They said police fired tear gas at the stands, causing fans to scramble to get out to the exit doors.

"The football world is in a state of shock following the tragic incidents that have taken place in Indonesia," FIFA President Gianni Infantino said.

"This is a dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension."

Indonesia stadium disaster sees police using tear gas on the crowd

Football fans held vigils and protests against police brutality on Sunday to show their condolences to victims of the soccer stadium tragedy in Indonesia.
Football fans held vigils and protests against police brutality on Sunday to show their condolences to victims of the soccer stadium tragedy in Indonesia.  © ADEK BERRY / AFP

The game on Saturday was reportedly filled to beyond capacity, with Indonesia’s chief security minister confirming 42,000 tickets had been issued for a stadium that holds a maximum of 38,000.

The use of tear gas raised questions about whether security personnel had followed proper procedures in dealing with a crowd inside a stadium.

Human rights activists called for a thorough investigation.

World Cup 2022: Qatar set unwanted record after impressive Ecuador draw with Netherlands
Soccer World Cup 2022: Qatar set unwanted record after impressive Ecuador draw with Netherlands

Police commanders and other officers must be held accountable for their decision to fire "significant and excessive amounts of teargas, which apparently caused suffocation, and stampeded the crowd towards exits where many were trampled to death," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"FIFA's own rules bar use of 'crowd control gas' in stadiums by security officials on edge of the field, which was precisely where the Indonesian police were at the time of the incident," he said.

The FIFA U20 World Cup is set to be held in Indonesia next year. Indonesia has also applied to host the 2023 Asian Cup.

Cover photo: Collage: STR / AFPTV & ADEK BERRY / AFP

More on the topic Soccer: