At least 129 people are dead and 180 more injured, police say, after chaos and violence erupted late on Saturday following an Indonesian league soccer match between two of the nation’s biggest teams.
Supporters of Arema FC and rival Persebaya Surabaya clashed after home team Arema FC was defeated 3-2 at a match in the city of Malang in East Java.
Supporters from the losing team had “invaded” the pitch and police fired tear gas, triggering a stampede which led to cases of suffocation, East Java police chief Nico Afinta said during a press conference following the event.
“First of all, a riot happened,” Nico said. “It had gotten anarchic. They (the fans) started attacking officers, they damaged cars.”
Two police officers were among the dead and 180 people were also injured, the police chief said, adding that the crush occurred when fans fled for an exit gate.
Videos filmed from inside the stadium late into the night and shared on social media showed fans, dressed in red and blue, storming the field and clashing with Indonesian security forces, who appeared to be wearing riot gear.
Video footage broadcast on local news channels also showed images of body bags, Reuters reported.
Smoke, which appeared to be tear gas, was also seen later in videos, with several people shown being carried into a building. The severity of their injuries remained unclear. Officials said that many had been admitted to nearby hospitals, suffering from “lack of oxygen and shortness of breath.”
According to Nico, when Arema FC lost 2-3 in the match against Persebaya Surabaya, their supporters stormed onto the field in anger.
Speaking to CNN affiliate CNN Indonesia, Sports and Youth Minister Zainudin Amali said he has asked for a full investigation into the tragedy to “determine the parties responsible.”
“I am coordinating with the national police chief and PSSI chairman and we will go directly to the stadium pitch in Malang,” he said.
‘Tarnishing the name of Indonesian football’
Located in East Java, the Kanjuruhan Stadium is used mostly for soccer matches and is estimated to hold up to 42,500 people.
While officials have not yet confirmed how many people were in attendance at the stadium during Saturday’s late night match, video footage and pictures taken by fans showed full stands of people.
There have been previous outbreaks of trouble at matches in Indonesia, with a strong rivalry between clubs sometimes leading to violence among supporters.
The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) has suspended matches next week as a result of the deadly tragedy, and banned Arema FC from hosting games for the rest of the season.
“PSSI regrets the actions of Aremania supporters at the Kanjuruhan Stadium,” the association’s chairman, Mochamad Iriawan, said in a statement issued on Sunday.
He added that the incident had “tarnished the face of Indonesian football” and they were supporting official investigations into the event.
“We are sorry and apologize to the families of the victims and all parties for the incident,” he said.
“For that PSSI immediately formed an investigation team and immediately left for Malang,” he added.
CNN reached out to FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, for a statement but did not immediately hear back.
Persebaya released a statement expressing their condolences, saying: “Persebaya’s big family expresses their deepest condolences for the loss of life after the Arema FC vs. Persebaya match. No life is worth football.”
“Alfatihah for the victims and may the family left behind be given fortitude.”
The Southeast Asian country is set to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in 2023. They are also one of three countries bidding to stage next year’s Asian Cup after China pulled out as hosts.
But criticism is now growing over the police’s handling of Saturday’s event. In a statement released on Sunday, watchdog group Indonesian Police Watch (IPW) called for accountability and the “removal” of Malang Police Chief Ferli Hidayat.
“This is the worst event in Indonesian soccer. The police chief should be ashamed and resign,” IPW said.
“The death toll must be thoroughly investigated and President Jokowi must pay attention,” it added.
Exiled Indonesia rights advocate Veronica Koman of Amnesty International condemned the police’s use of tear gas.
“This instance of abuse of tear gas by police is unlawful and amounts to torture,” she said.
“Tear gas is illegal in warfare – but why is it still legal for domestic use?”