Delays in opening the gates of an Indonesian football stadium after violence erupted at the end of a match contributed to a disaster in which at least 125 people died, the national football association said .
Police fired tear gas as fans swarmed the pitch during the match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya in Malang town on Saturday, triggering panic in the crowd and sparking a crush as they fled for the exits.
Tear gas is banned in football stadiums by international governing body FIFA, which also recommends that all exits remain unlocked during a match for safety reasons.
Indonesian football’s governing body said it had permanently banned the general manager and security coordinator of the team that hosted Saturday’s match, Arema FC, for failing to secure the pitch and promptly issuing an order to unlock the doors.
“The doors should have been opened, but were closed,” said Erwin Tobing, head of the association’s disciplinary committee.
The association’s spokesperson, Ahmad Riyad, added: “Due to a lack of workers, only a few people were ordered to open the doors, and they had not yet reached some doors when spectators began to rush to escape the tear gas fired by the police in an attempt to control the fans who had entered the pitch.”
Police, however, continued to insist on Tuesday that the gates were open but were too narrow and could only fit two people at a time as hundreds tried to escape.
An Indonesian police chief and nine elite officers have been removed from their posts and 18 other officers are also under investigation on the orders of Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino called the death “a dark day for everyone involved in football and an incomprehensible tragedy”.
On Sunday, East Java Police Chief Nico Afinta told a press conference, “We have already taken preventive action before finally throwing tear gas as [fans] began attacking the police, acting haphazardly and setting fire to vehicles.”
Some local officials had put the death toll at 174, but East Java Deputy Governor Emil Dardak said the death toll was later lowered to 125.
“The previous figure may have included duplicate deaths,” he said.
More than 300 people were taken to nearby hospitals, but many died en route and during treatment, Afinta said.
Grieving relatives waited for information about loved ones in hospitals and others attempted to identify bodies deposited in a morgue.
FIFA President Infantino said: “The world of football is in shock following the tragic incidents that took place in Indonesia at the end of the match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at Kanjuruhan Stadium.
“It is a dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond belief. I send my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims who lost their lives as a result of this incident. tragic.
“Together with FIFA and the global football community, our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, to those injured, as well as to the people of the Republic of Indonesia, the Asian Football Confederation, the Indonesian Football Federation and Indonesian Football Federation League, at this difficult time.”
The Indonesian football association, known as PSSI, suspended the Premier League indefinitely in light of the tragedy and banned Arema from hosting games for the rest of the season.
Malang police chief Ferli Hidayat said there were some 42,000 spectators at Saturday’s match, all of whom were Arema fans because the organizer had banned Persebaya fans from entering the stadium. stadium to avoid trouble.
Hooliganism is rampant in football-obsessed Indonesia, where bigotry often ends in violence, highlighted by the 2018 death of a Persija Jakarta fan who was killed by a mob of the rival club’s hardcore fans Persib Bandung.