At least 174 people have been killed after a riot and stampede at a football game in Indonesia in one of the deadliest disasters in the history of the sport, according to government officials.
The disaster, in which at least 180 people were also injured, prompted the country’s president Joko Widodo to halt top-tier matches in the country until a security probe into the sport is completed.
The game in Surabaya in Indonesia’s East Java province between local rivals Arema and Persebaya descended into violence after thousands of fans stormed the pitch, police said on Sunday, adding that the death toll may continue to rise.
East Java police chief Nico Afinta said that the crowd was made up entirely of fans of Arema, the home team, which lost the match 3-2, with Persebaya supporters watching virtually from Surabaya, the provincial capital.
The chaos occurred after police fired tear gas as fans “became anarchic” and stormed the pitch, triggering a stampede in which people were trampled and suffocated, Afinta said. Two police officers were among those killed.
The tragedy is a damaging blow to Indonesia’s credentials as a venue for high-profile international sporting events. The country is hosting the men’s under-20 Fifa World Cup in 2023 and is bidding to host next year’s Asian Cup.
Rights groups have criticised the Indonesian police response, particularly the use of tear gas, which is banned for controlling crowds by Fifa.
“We . . . call on the police to review policies on the use of tear gas and other ‘less-lethal weapons’ to ensure that such a heartbreaking tragedy never occurs again,” Amnesty International said in a statement on Sunday.
Footage posted by local media and online showed crowds overturning and setting alight police vehicles and chasing Persebaya players and officials.
Widodo said he “regretted” the events and ordered a thorough investigation.
“I hope this is the last tragedy of football in the country,” he added.
As many as 42,000 tickets were sold for the match at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in East Java, despite it having an official capacity of just 38,000, Mahfud MD, Indonesian political, legal and security minister, said in an Instagram post.
The PSSI, Indonesia’s football association, banned Arema from hosting games for the rest of the season, its chair said in a statement.
Sports and youth minister Zainudin Amali told CNN Indonesia that he was coordinating with the national police and chair of the PSSI, to “determine the parties responsible” for the disaster. He also told local media the ministry would consider barring spectators from stadiums.