‘Tragedy beyond comprehension’

‘Tragedy beyond comprehension’

Football’s governing body FIFA says Indonesia’s fatal stadium stampede is a “tragedy beyond comprehension” as the country’s President Joko Widodo suspended all games in the top league, BRI Liga 1, until an investigation is completed.

The death toll was revised down to 125 after officials earlier put the figure as high as 174, making it the world’s worst stadium tragedy since more than 300 were killed in Peru in 1964.

It’s reported that the weekend’s deadly crushing occurred as fans rushed for the exits to escape tear gas fired by police in the soccer stadium in Indonesia’s East Java province. When frustrated supporters of the losing home team Arema invaded the pitch in Malang on Saturday, officers fired tear gas in an attempt to control the situation. A stampede was triggered, with many dying from suffocation. East Java police chief Nico Afinta said the use of tear gas was in accordance with police procedure. “If the fans had obeyed the rules, this incident would not have happened.”

However, FIFA, the world’s governing football body, states that no “crowd control gas” should be carried or used by stewards or police at matches.

Amnesty International Indonesia slammed the security measures, saying the “use of excessive force by the state … to contain or control such crowds cannot be justified at all”.

Great tragedies in football stadia

The tragedy in the Malang stadium in eastern Indonesia is only the latest in a long series of tragedies in the stadia. These are the most serious:

Peru – May 24, 1964: 320 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in a mob during the Peru-Argentina Olympic qualifiers at the Lima National Stadium. The fans could not escape the throng and were trampled or asphyxiated.

Russia – October 20, 1982: The mystery still surrounds the total number of deaths at the end of a Uefa Cup match between Spartak Moscow and the Dutch team of Haarlem at the Luzniki Stadium, due to a crowd in the stairwell. Officially this was 66 people, including 45 teenagers, but according to the newspaper ‘Sovietski Sport’ the number of victims was much higher, with 340 deaths.

Ghana – May 9, 2001: 126 people died in Accra at the end of a match between Hearts of Oaks and Kumasi, when Kumasi fans, enraged by their team’s defeat, threw bullets and broke chairs. The police threw tear gas grenades, sparking a stampede.

England – April 15, 1989: A mob in the stands of Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium kills 97 Liverpool fans during the FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest.

England – May 11, 1985: 56 people were killed in a fire that broke out in the wooden stands during a match between Bradford and Lincoln City.

Guatemala – October 16, 1996: About 80 spectators lost their lives after being crushed by fans who had crowded into a stand at the Mateo Flores National Stadium for the 1998 World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica.

Scotland – January 2, 1971: 66 people were killed in a mob at Ibrox Stadium during a derby between Rangers and Celtic. It was the stadium’s second disaster, following the collapse of a grandstand in 1902, which claimed 26 lives.

Egypt – February 1, 2012: The tragedy at the Port Said stadium in Egypt causes 74 deaths after clashes between rival supporters of the local club Al-Masry and Al-Ahly in Cairo.

Egypt – February 17, 1974: 48 people died and 47 were injured when 80,000 people crammed into a stadium with a capacity of 40,000.

South Africa – April 11, 2001: 43 people die in a mob at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park stadium during a game between the Orlando Pirates and the Kaizer Chiefs.

South Africa – January 3, 1991: 40 killed in a scrum during the Orlando Pirates-Kaizer Chiefs game.

Belgium – May 29, 1985: 39 dead at the Heysel stadium in Brussels when Juventus fans tried to escape from Liverpool fans.

France – May 5, 1992: 18 dead and over 2,300 injured in the collapse of a terrace at the Furiani stadium in Corsica.

Cameroon – January 24, 2022: Eight people are killed and dozens more injured in a crush and a train before the Africa Cup of Nations match between the hosts of Cameroon and the Comoros in Yaounde.

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