UMass Lowell Connector Logo

125 dead after tear gas triggers fatal soccer stadium rush in Indonesia

(Photo courtesy of “People gather in a vigil to mourn those who tragically passed.”

Jon Hatem
Connector Staff

On Saturday, October 1st, at least 125 Indonesian people were estimated to have passed after an incident between rival fans and the police. Occurring in Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, Indonesia, this is among the worst crowd disasters to ever occur. Fans of Arema FC threw bottles and other objects at the players and match officials as well as storming the field after their team lost to rival Persebaya Surabaya 3-2. After unrest spilled onto the street, police responded with tear gas and began hitting out at supporters with batons and shields both inside and outside the stadium. Supporters ran away from the tear gas while some were trampled in the panic. More than 300 people were sent to the hospital.

All 42,000 fans in the stadium were supporters of Arema as Persebaya fans were barred from the stadium to avoid fights from breaking out. This is 4,000 people over the capacity for the stadium. This is after clashes between the supporters caused 250 million rupiah ($18,000) in damages at a match in February of 2020.

The International Federation of Association Football, or FIFA, recommends against using crowd control gases such as tear gas in the control of fans. Tear gas causes a burning sensation in the eyes, mouth, nose, lungs, and on the skin of those it affects. FIFA prohibits its use and Amnesty International states that the weapon is only supposed to be used in a last-resort manner and proper warning needs to be given to spectators. Tear gas has been used previously in other stadium disasters. Amnesty International Indonesia has responded by asking for an independent investigation into the actions of law enforcement.

East Java Police chief Nico Afinta states that tear gas was an appropriate response as multiple police vehicles were overturned. Owen West, a senior lecturer on policing at Edge Hill University in Britain, suggests that the dispersal tactic is inappropriate for use inside the stadium. It is likely that dispersal tactics like this one will cause a rush to the few exits in a stadium as well as a general panic. Suci Rahayu, a photographer at the stadium, stated that many people fainted from the gas and that they believed the riot would not have occurred if the tear gas had not been administered.

As West also says, “Running away from something that is doing so much damage to your breathing and eyesight and general health, that is an entirely rational decision.” West also points out that the heavily armed police can lead directly to the kind of response they are supposed to help avoid.

This year in January, at least eight people were killed in a rush to get into Olembe Stadium in Yaoundé, Cameroon. In May, fans attending the Champions League finals in Paris faced tear gas outside the stadium.

Hundreds attended a candlelight vigil for the victims in the country’s capital of Jakarta. Signs were seen saying “Indonesian soccer in mourning” and “stop police brutality”. Together, fans, strangers and loved ones come together to remember those who passed and try to move together as they get to the bottom of this tragedy.

Related posts