Police use tear gas to prevent Arema Football Club supporters from invading the pitch frollowing a match with visiting Persebaya Surabaya at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in the East Java town of Malang on October 1, 2022. (Antara Photo/Bowo Sucipto)

FIFA President Mourns “Dark Day” in Football after East Java Tragedy

BY :THE JAKARTA GLOBE

OCTOBER 02, 2022

Jakarta. The president of the world football governing body FIFA described the riot that killed at least 174 people after a match in the East Java town of Malang on Saturday night as a dark day in football.

“The football world is in a state of shock following the tragic incidents that have taken place in Indonesia at the end of the match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at the Kanjuruhan Stadium," Gianni Infantino said in a statement on Sunday.

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“This is a dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension. I extend my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims who lost their lives following this tragic incident," he added. 

The Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry said at least 17 children were among the deaths.

“According to our data, 17 children were killed and seven others were injured. The number is likely to grow,” said Nahar, a deputy in the ministry.

The worst football tragedy of the 21st century occurred after Arema fans invaded the pitch following the home team’s 3-2 loss to arch-rival Persebaya. 

Police tear-gassed rioters to control the crowd but it turned out the effects were just the opposite -- thousands of people ran in panic to the exits and many died due to breathing difficulties and a lack of oxygen.

An eye witness identified only as Joko said the stadium was blanketed by thick smoke and gas when the situation worsened.

“It was very painful in my eyes. I could hardly breathe,” he said.

A car is overtuned and burned down during a riot by Arema Football Club supporters following the team s defeat to visiting Persebaya Surabaya at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in the East Java town of Malang on October 1, 2022. (Antara Photo/Bowo Sucipto)
A car is overturned and burned down during a riot by Arema Football Club supporters following the team's defeat to visiting Persebaya Surabaya at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in the East Java town of Malang on October 1, 2022. (Antara Photo/Bowo Sucipto)

Chief Security Minister Mohammad Mahfud MD said police were forced to use tear gas because thousands of Arema supporters invaded the pitch and attempted to attack players and match officials.

“There were more and more of them on the pitch so police had no choice but to tear gas them to remain in control,” Mahfud told local news website Detik.

Two officers assigned to secure the match were killed in the incident, police have said.

A video circulating on social media captured the horrific moment when the spectators in seat rows helplessly waved their hands while blanketed by thick tear gas.

"Stupid police! It's a massacre using tear gas," Twitter user @laksmana_a wrote.

The use of tear gas inside the stadium has become a source of controversy in the tragedy and Mahfud said that a thorough investigation is underway.

In addition to the tear gas, many victims died in a stampede during the chaotic situation, a local health official said.

“People got panic and trampled by others in the chaos that followed,” said Wiyanto Wijoyo, the head of the Health Department in Malang. 

"The victims were suffocated based on medical analysis but we also saw many of them with physical injuries and broken bones," he added.

A man strews flowers near the Kanjuruhan Stadium in the East Java town of Malang on October 2, 2022, a day after a riot involving Arema Football Club supporters that killed at least 174 people. (Antara Photo/Zabur Karuru)
A man strews flowers near the Kanjuruhan Stadium in the East Java town of Malang on October 2, 2022, to pay tribute to the victims of a riot involving Arema Football Club supporters that killed at least 174 people a day earlier. (Antara Photo/Zabur Karuru)

There are conflicting reports about the death toll but the provincial disaster mitigation agency (BPPD) put it at 174.
 
The local police have asked the organizers to move forward the schedule to the afternoon prior to the match for security reasons. 

But the organizers insisted that it be held at night according to the original schedule after getting assurance that the visiting team would not bring their supporters, according to Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) Secretary-General Yunus Nusi.

The PSSI hopes that the tragedy will not trigger heavy sanctions from FIFA including the cancelation of Indonesia’s hosting of the U-20 World Cup next year, Yunus said.

He said the many casualties in the post-match incident were not caused by clashes between rivaling supporters but because of “the concentration of a large number of supporters at the exits”.

“It formed large and chaotic crowds and people died from the stampede,” he said, adding that the PSSI will continue communicating with FIFA and providing updates on the investigation.

(Hendro Situmorang contributed to the story.)

Angry fans of Arema Football Club rush into the pitch at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, shortly after a match between the home team and Persebaya Surabaya on October 1, 2022. (Antara Photo)
Angry fans of Arema Football Club invade the pitch at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, shortly after a match between the home team and Persebaya Surabaya on October 1, 2022. (Antara Photo)

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