Football turns deadly: Indonesia stampede joins list of worst stadium disasters in the world


A football match in Indonesia turned into one of the world’s deadliest stadium disasters of all time on Saturday. At least 125 people were killed and dozens more were injured in a riot and a stampede during an Indonesian league soccer match in the city of Malang in East Java.

According to the police, the tragedy took place when supporters of Arema FC and rival Persebaya Surabaya, two of Indonesia’s biggest soccer teams, clashed in the stands 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 “invaded” the pitch and the police fired tear gas, triggering a fan crush that to cases of suffocation, East Java police chief Nico Afinta said during a press conference following the event.

Two police officers were also among the dead, he said, adding that the crush occurred when fans fled for an exit gate.

One of the survivors told news agency AFP, “Officers fired tear gas, and automatically people were rushing to come out, pushing each other and it caused many victims. Nothing was happening, there was no riot. I don’t know what the issue was, they suddenly fired tear gas. That’s what shocked me, didn’t they think about kids, women?”

Also read: What went wrong at Indonesia’s football match?

President Joko Widodo has ordered that all matches in Indonesia’s top league must be stopped until an investigation has been carried out.

Reacting to the tragedy, the president of FIFA, the world’s governing football body, said it “a dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension.”

“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,” said Infantino, adding, “All our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, those who have been injured, together with the people of the Republic of Indonesia.”

This isn’t the first time that a tragedy has marred a football event. Let us look at some of the worst football-related disasters in the past.

Lima tragedy of 1964

Fifty-eight years ago, the world’s worst stadium disaster took place in the Peruvian capital of Lima. The incident occurred at the Estadio Nacional in Lima, Peru, during an Olympic qualifying match between Peru and Argentina.

A decision taken by the referee incensed Peruvian fans, with one of them running on to the pitch, attempting to punch the referee before being stopped by police and removed from the field of play.

Another home fan called Edilberto Cuenca also ran onto the pitch to express his disappointment with the referee’s decision. Cuenca was then attacked by the police and brutally assaulted. The officers began kicking him and beating him, with dogs tearing at his clothes. This incensed the crowd who couldn’t believe that police were doing this to one of their own.

The crowd began to launch a variety of missiles at the police. An angry police force then launched tear gas into the grounds and caused a stampede, as people rushed to the gates to escape the grounds.

Officials put down the number of deaths at 328 but it is likely that it was significantly more than that.

Russia’s Luzhniki disaster of 1982

It had been snowing and temperatures had plunged to below freezing on 20 October 1982. Nevertheless, 10,000 football fans were determined to see Spartak Moscow’s UEFA Cup home game against HFC Haarlem of the Netherlands at Lenin Stadium.

According to some reports, several fans were coming down the stairwell in block C when a woman lost her shoe on the stairs and as they tried to help her, they were crushed by a dense crowd, which was limited by metal barriers. Unaware of the tragedy that unfolded on the stairs, many young fans who were on their way out, also stumbled over the bodies.

By the end of the night, at least 66 people were dead. Other reports put the number of fatalities closer to 340.

The 1988 Nepal Dasharath crush

A total of 93 people died and over 100 were injured at the Dasharath Stadium in Nepal’s Kathmandu during a match between the Janakpur Cigarette Factory and Bangalesh’s Liberation Army in March 1988.

A hailstorm broke out during the match and caused large-scale panic, with fans flocking to the only cover in the stadium. This was met with resistance by the police, which caused fans to move to an exit via a tunnel entrance, where the overcrowding caused a massive crush.

Hillsborough tragedy in Britain in 1989

On 15 April 1989, 96 Liverpool fans were killed at the Hillsborough Stadium after being crushed to death in the stadium’s stands, interrupting an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

The incident took place as kick-off approached; a large crowd had built up outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles. In order to relive the pressure, an exit gate was opened and 2,000 fans entered the already-packed terraces through the tunnel. A severe crush develops in the central pens and people are pulled out in a “human cascade”.

The incident goes down in British history as the worst sports-related disaster.

Guatemala disaster of 1996

On 18 October 1996, 84 people died and another 147 were injured before a World Cup qualifying match between Guatemala and Costa Rica at the Estadio Nacional Doroteo Guamuch Flores stadium when excessive number of fans attempted to enter the General Sur section, creating a human avalanche.

The football match was immediately suspended by Guatemala president Alvaro Arzú, who was attending the event, and FIFA suspended the use of the stadium for official international matches until the safety issues were resolved, a ban that lasted over two years.

Egypt’s Port Stadium riot of 2012

At least 74 people were killed in a massive riot that broke out at Port Said Stadium in Egypt, following an Egyptian Premier League football match between Al Masry and Al Ahly.

It was reported that thousands of Al Masry fans stormed the stadium stands and the pitch following a 3–1 victory by their club, and violently attacked Ahly fans using clubs, stones, bottles, and fireworks, trapping them inside the El Ahly partition of the stadium.

The incident resulted in the Egyptian league being suspended for two years.

With inputs from agencies

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Football turns deadly: Indonesia stampede joins list of worst stadium disasters in the world
Football turns deadly: Indonesia stampede joins list of worst stadium disasters in the world
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