Indonesia football stadium disaster: what happened in Malang as at least 131 people die in Arema FC stampede

Arema FC’s 38,000 seat Kanjuruhan Stadium is one of the biggest stadiums in Indonesia’s premier league Liga 1

<p>People in Malang have begun to mourn their relatives and loved ones who died at the Arema FC game (image: Getty Images)</p>

People in Malang have begun to mourn their relatives and loved ones who died at the Arema FC game (image: Getty Images)

A football game in Indonesia ended in disaster on Sunday (2 October), after a stampede led to what has so far been confirmed as 131 deaths.

The crush happened at the 38,000 seat Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java after Arema FC fans stormed the pitch following their side’s defeat in an Indonesian premier league Liga 1 match.

It is already one of the world’s worst football stadium disasters. It follows tragedies including the Hillsborough disaster, which led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans.

So what happened in Indonesia- and what have the Indonesian authorities said?

People in Malang have begun to mourn their relatives and loved ones who died at the Arema FC game (image: Getty Images)

Where is Malang?

The city of Malang is in Indonesia - a country made up of an archipelago of islands that sits on the eastern side of the Indian Ocean.

Malang is in East Java - a province of one of the country’s main islands. It is around 750km away from the capital Jakarta and close to the popular holiday island of Bali.

Home to more than 800,000 people, it is famed for its mix of its ancient and colonial architecture.

The Kanjuruhan Stadium was the scene of 131 deaths in a post-football match stampede (image: Getty Images)

What happened at Arema FC?

Arema FC had played major rivals Persebaya - a club from the main East Java city of Surabaya - in a mid-table clash in Indonesia’s top league when the stampede happened. It is understood 42,000 tickets had been sold for the game despite the stadium’s official capacity of 38,000.

No Persebaya fans were present at the game because of violence between rival fans in previous fixtures.

Police fired tear gas at Arema FC supporters after they flooded the pitch to protest against the club’s management (image: AFP/Getty Images)

After Arema lost the game 2-3, a section of fans - known as the ‘Aremania’ - stormed the pitch, while others chucked bottles and other objects at players and officials from the stands. Local police say some 3,000 fans ran onto the pitch after the final whistle.

According to the PA news agency, the club’s fanbase were angry because it was the first time the team had lost at home against Persebaya for 23 years. As well as taking place inside the stadium, what local police described as “anarchic” unrest spread to the concourses outside and led to five police cars being overturned and set on fire.

Unrest outside the stadium led to police cars being overturned and set alight (image: AFP/Getty Images)

In footage seen by NationalWorld, riot police with shields then charge at the pitch invaders and fire tear gas into the stands. The use of tear gas is banned in football stadiums by the international football governing body FIFA.

The police’s actions led to panic among the crowd and caused a surge of people to run to the stadium exits. According to Indonesia’s football association and some fans who were there, these gates were closed and there was a delay in unlocking them.

The worst of the crush was seen at gate 13. Fans had to break through a wall next to the gateway to save themselves, according to the PA news agency.

The city of Malang is mourning the 131 Aema FC fans who died on 2 October (image: Getty Images)

Local police said the problem was not the gates, which they claim were open, but that the gateways were too narrow.

Arema FC’s CEO and security chief have both been banned from the sport, the football association said. FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) recommend gates are left unlocked throughout games for safety purposes.

Most of the 131 deaths confirmed so far, 17 of which were children, came as a result of people being trampled or suffocated at six of the stadium’s 14 gates as they tried to escape the police.

The authorities have fired the police chief and nine elite officers, while a further 18 police officers are being investigated for using tear gas.

What have Indonesian authorities said?

Indonesia’s football association, known as PSSI, has suspended Liga 1 indefinitely on the instruction of the Indonesian President Joko Widodo. The footballing authorities are reviewing security procedures before allowing fixtures to resume.

Arema FC has also been banned from hosting matches for the remainder of the season, if it resumes.

Indonesian football has been suspended indefinitely (image: AFP/Getty Images)

President Widodo expressed his deep condolences for the dead in a televised address on Sunday (2 October).

“I deeply regret this tragedy and I hope this is the last soccer tragedy in this country. Don’t let another human tragedy like this happen in the future,” he said. “We must continue to maintain sportsmanship, humanity and a sense of brotherhood of the Indonesian nation.”

Mr Widodo ordered his sports minister, the national police chief and the chairperson of the PSSI to set up an investigation into what happened.

Indonesia is due to host the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup between 20 May and 11 June.

Reacting to the news of the stadium disaster, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement: “The football world is in a state of shock following the tragic incidents that have taken place in Indonesia.

“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.”