Violence erupted at a soccer game in Indonesia over the weekend and became one of the deadliest calamities in sporting history, leaving at least 125 dead and many others injured.
Media sources reported that the violence started as fans of two Indonesian soccer teams clashed at a game in East Java province on Saturday (October 01, 2022). The supporters of the two teams engaged in brawls after Persebaya Surabaya defeated the home team Arema Malang in the Indonesian Premier League Match.
The province’s riot police tried to break the big fight by firing tear gas at the violent crowd. This added to the fright of the spectators and they caused a stampede in trying to exit the stadium. The New York Post wrote:
In the chaos, dozens of people were trampled to death instantly, while others suffocated.
ESPN cited a spectator telling that spectators fought back against police when they started to break the fight by beating the angry fans with sticks and shields. Over 300 of the injured people were rushed to the hospitals but many died either on the way or at the hospital. Those dead at the soccer stadium also include two police officers, according to ESPN.
As a first response from Indonesia’s soccer association – the PSSI – the top division, Liga 1 soccer events have been indefinitely suspended. It has also banned Arema from hosting soccer matches for the remainder of the season.
Viral videos of the chaotic scenes immediately started making rounds on social media and showed that the riot police responded immediately after angry spectators rushed the soccer field in reaction to the result of the match.
Indonesian authorities are reportedly investigating over a dozen police officers for shelling the crowd of spectators with tear gas, which caused the stampede and led to most of the deaths and injuries.
Violence at soccer games is nothing new as the sport remains not only the most popular but one of the most volatile ones in the world. To date, the Lima Football Disaster of 1964 is considered the deadliest soccer event that left 328 dead and around 500 injured.
Argentina was about to beat the host team of Peru at the Estadio Nacional in Lima when violence broke out. Peruvian police fired tear gas to quell the violence, only to cause panic and a stampede that led to a large number of deaths and injuries. In 2001, a similar pattern of events caused the deaths of 126 people at a soccer game in Ghana’s Accra Sports Stadium.
However, the most explosive reaction to a soccer game was seen in July 1969 when a war broke out between the countries of El Salvador and Honduras after two soccer games between the two countries ended in violence by supporters of the two teams while their countries were already going through a deep-seated political conflict.
The war is remembered in history as “The Football War” and also as the “100 Hour War.”