When soccer fans attending Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, Indonesia rushed onto the field, police fired tear gas into the tightly packed audience. As attendees avidly searched for exits, 125 individuals tragically lost their lives.
On Saturday, October 1st, one of the deadliest tragedies in sporting event history occurred. Pandamonium broke loose when the home team, Arema, lost to Persebaya Surabaya and fans began making their way onto the field. In an attempt to contain the uproar, riot police fired tear gas into the audience, exacerbating the situation and sending a 42,000 crowd into a panic.
Fans fled to the gates in order to escape the tear gas, but the 14 gates that makeup Kanjuruhan Stadium were reportedly too small to accommodate the rush of people. “They were too small. They had a capacity for two people but there were hundreds coming out. There was a crush there, ” Dedi Prasetyo, a police spokesperson, said in a statement.
The death toll is continuously being counted by officials, but there are at least 125 confirmed deaths, as well as 300 people left injured. The accident rivals the 1964 Peruvian Soccer Tragedy when 300 people died after fans condemned the call of a referee. When President Joko Widodo addressed his nation over the Kanjuruhan Stadium stampede, he ensured civilians that a thorough investigation is ongoing.
President Joko Widodo formally addresses the Kanjuruhan Stadium Tragedy
“I regret that this tragedy occurred,” Mr. Joko said in a televised speech, according to The New York Times. “And I hope this is the last football tragedy in the country.”
As Indonesian officials search for answers to this unfortunate series of events, many are wondering if the organizers are to blame or the police. While there were supposedly 42,000 printed tickets for a stadium with a 38,000 person capacity, according to FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, the use of tear gas is strongly prohibited. Indonesia’s Legal Aid Foundation’s argued that the use of tear gas exacerbated panic among the crowd, leading to a stampede.
“The excessive use of force through the use of tear gas and inappropriate crowd control was the cause of the large number of fatalities,” the ILAF said. Yet, East Java police chief, Mr. Afinta, argued that the use of tear gas at Kanjuruhan Stadium was absolutely necessary.
“They were about to attack the officers and had damaged the cars,” he said of members of the crowd.
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