Football and Fatalities: Indonesian Soccer Stadium Crush

Photo from nytimes.com

At least 125 people were killed and many wounded after a stampede broke out at game between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya in the city of Malang on Saturday.

The clash broke out following Arema FC’s loss to rivals, Persebaya Surabaya in a 3-2 defeat. Many fans of Arema were upset with their team’s loss and began to throw water bottles as well as other objects at players. According to witnesses, fans rushed the field demanding an explanation as to why the team fell short to their rivals.

The riot expanded outside the stadium with police vehicles flipped and set on fire. In response, officials threw tear gas in the direction of the stands, spreading fear amongst the fans.

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As chaos grew, many people tried beating the tear gas, but were suffocated when exiting the stadium. Reports concluded that 34 died in the stadium, two of which were police officers and some of which were allegedly children.

Families patiently awaited outside Malang Saiful Anwar General Hospital to receive any word on their loved ones. Others tried to identify any possible victims at the morgue.

Photo from apnews.com

President Joko Widodo, addressed the nation with a televised speech ordering the national police to launch an investigation and find more information behind the disaster. He demands a further evaluation of security for future soccer matches.

“I regret that this tragedy occurred,” says Joko. “I hope this is the last soccer tragedy in this country, don’t let another human tragedy like this happen in the future.”

Human rights experts have questioned the morality of using tear gas as a security strategy following the event.

Tear gas is known to pose many risks. Causing a rigid burning sensation in the eyes, mouth nose, lungs and skin. The international governing body of football, FIFA’s regulation for stadium safety has a strict policy that prohibits security from having possession of any, “crowd control gas.”

In a written statement from Amnesty’s international executive director of Indonesia, Usman Hamid says tear gas, “should only be used to disperse crowds when widespread violence has occurred and when other methods have failed.” He believes that fans should be forewarned about the gas before it’s used.

Photo from espn.com

Angered at the excessive force and use of unauthorized weapons by police, many fans gathered to protest to police brutality and demand a change in managing security at large sport events.

Portrayal from the police department has also caused an uproar, placing blame on the victim’s family members. The justification from the police behind the release of tear gas was in response to the fear that the crowd was going to attack the officers.

Photo from sports.mynorthwest.com

Police chief of East Java, Nico Afinta justified the employing of tear gas.

“We have already done a preventive action before finally firing the tear gas as (fans) began to attack the police, acting anarchically and burning vehicles,” says Afinta.

A candle-lit vigil was held on Saturday at Gelora Bung Karno, the Indonesian sport stadium in the capital, Jakarta. Hundreds of fans dressed in all black, sang songs to pay their condolences and honor the victims of the tragedy.

Photo from pbs.org

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