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Indonesian Soccer Riot Kills 125

By: Ella Marrufo

Sports Editor

What started off as another exciting, action-packed soccer game in Malang, Indonesia, ended in tragedy. Fans flocked to the Kanjuruhan Stadium to see the home team Arema, expecting them to maintain their 23-year domination of the opposing team Persebaya Surabaya. When Arema lost, fans were outraged, provoking a period of violence and chaos.

Fans threw glass bottles and other projectiles onto the field and at officials and then rushed the field demanding to know why the team had lost the game. When police reacted with tear gas, the crowd began to panic; the chaos quickly spread outside the stadium, with people flipping police cars over and setting them on fire. As police beat fans with sticks and shields, fans became increasingly aggressive. 

Witness Ahmad Fatoni said, “Officers fired tear gas directly at spectators in the stands, forcing us to run toward the exit .… Many victims fell because of shortness of breath and difficulty seeing due to tear gas and were trampled.” Medical personnel transported over 300 injured people to nearby hospitals. At least 125 people died in the disarray, including several children and two police officers. This is now one of the most deadly soccer riots to date. In the aftermath, a police brigade removed a police chief and nine elite officers from their posts. Officials are now investigating these nine individuals for throwing the tear gas canisters, thus acting as potential key instigators.

Another reason for the riot was overcapacity. According to Mahfud MD, Indonesia’s coordinating minister, 42,000 tickets were sold, bypassing the 38,000-person capacity of the stadium. The main cause of death was suffocation and trampling due to the stampede, which could have been prevented if the capacity limit was appropriately met. 

Arema FC President Gilang Widya Pramana expressed his regret and apologized to the people who lost members of their families, saying, “I am ready to provide assistance, even though it will not be able to return the victims’ lives … This incident was beyond prediction, beyond reason … in a match watched only by our fans, not a single rival supporter.” 

Unfortunately, this type of violent sports riot is not uncommon. During soccer games especially, it is typical for fans in the stands to become unruly and violent. In Indonesia, an occurrence like this is even more common due to passionate fans. The Indonesian website IndoSport revealed that 78 people have died during similar soccer game incidents in the past 28 years. Grieving family members and Indonesians pray an event like this never happens again. 

(Sources: ESPN, New York Times, IndoSport, TIME News, NPR)

Categories: News, World

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