FIFA, the head of soccer’s international governing body, has led football’s mourning of Saturday’s stadium crush at an Indonesian league football match, describing the incident, which killed at least 125 people, as a “dark day” and a “tragedy beyond comprehension.”
In what is one of the world’s deadliest ever stadium disasters, more than 300 people remain injured, according to Indonesian authorities, with fears that the death toll could still rise.
“Together with FIFA and the global football community, all our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, those who have been injured, together with the people of the Republic of Indonesia, the Asian Football Confederation, the Indonesian Football Association, and the Indonesian Football League, at this difficult time,” he said.
Supporters of Arema FC and rival Persebaya Surbaya, two of Indonesia’s biggest soccer teams, clashed in the stands after home team Arema FC was defeated 3-2 at a match in the city of Malang in East Java, police said.
Supporters from the losing team then “invaded” the pitch and police fired tear gas, triggering a fan crush that led to cases of suffocation, East Java police chief Nico Afinta said during a press conference following the event.
Two police officers were also among the dead, the police chief said, adding that the crush occurred when fans fled for an exit gate.
Football clubs around the world are paying tribute to those killed.
Spain’s La Liga announced in a statement that a minute’s silence will be held at the five matches scheduled for Sunday and Monday, as well as the 10 matches the following week, while many English Premier League clubs tweeted their own tributes to the victims of the disaster.
Liverpool FC, which suffered a tragedy in 1989 when 96 of its supporters died at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, was among them.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the events at Kanjuruhan Stadium, Malang, Indonesia. The thoughts of everyone at Liverpool Football Club are with all those affected at this time,” Liverpool tweeted.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the events in Malang at the Kanjuruhan Stadium Indonesia today. Along with everyone who finds a connection through football, our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy,” English club Arsenal tweeted.
Meanwhile, Gilang Widya Pramana, the President of the host team Arema FC apologized in a statement on the club website.
“As the President of Arema FC, I apologize to all residents of Malang who were affected by this incident, I am very concerned and strongly condemn the riots at the Kanjuruhan stadium which resulted in more than one hundred deaths,” he said.
“I feel deep sorrow and condolences for the Aremania who were victims of the Kanjuruhan disaster, I hope the bereaved families will be given courage,” he added.
Gilang said he has instructed the management of Arema FC to coordinate with the health service center that is treating the victims, and expressed his full support for the ongoing police investigation.
“We also fully support the investigation carried out by the police, and ask the parties to exercise restraint until a clear point of the problem is found,” he said.
Indonesia’s Football’s Association (PSSI) has suspended all matches next week and banned Arema FC from hosting games for the rest of the season.
Indonesia is set to host next year’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup and is staging a bid for the 2023 Asian Cup.
Asian Football Confederation President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said in a statement, “I am deeply shocked and saddened to hear such tragic news coming out of football-loving Indonesia and, on behalf of the AFC and the Asian football family, I send our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims, while expressing our speedy recovery wishes to the fans who have been injured in the incident and support to the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) and the clubs.”
“The thoughts and prayers of the Asian football family are with the football family of Indonesia during this very difficult moment,” he added.
One of the worst stadium disasters in history
Located in East Java, the Kanjuruhan Stadium is used mostly for soccer matches, with its full capacity estimated at 38,000 spectators.
But 42,000 tickets were issued for Saturday’s game, according to ministry officials.
“We had anticipated the (large) numbers and suggested that the game be held in the afternoon instead but it went on in the evening,” Indonesian Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD said in a post shared on his official social media accounts.
He added that the stadium had been “filled beyond its maximum capacity.”
“Our proposals were not met. I also would like to emphasize that supporters in the field were Arema FC’s.”
There have been previous outbreaks of trouble at matches in Indonesia, with a strong rivalry between clubs sometimes leading to violence among supporters.
“All sports clubs (in Indonesia) that compete between the cities are always intense,” Indonesian football analyst Dex Glenniza told CNN, who noted that it was “forbidden” for Arema and Persebaya supporters to visit each other’s stadiums.
“(This is) in order to avoid friction and clashes between supporters,” he said. “But there are still many incidents between the supporters, most of which off the field.”
CNN’s Heather Chen, Raja Razek, Jake Kwon and Kareem El Damanhoury contributed reporting.