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More than 129 people killed after stampede at Indonesia football match

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JAKARTA – At least 129 people were killed and around 180 injured at a soccer match in Indonesia after a crowd stampede during a riot, police said on Sunday, in what appears to be one of the world’s worst stadium disasters.

After the match in East Java province between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya ended on Saturday night, supporters from the losing team invaded the pitch and police fired tear gas, triggering a stampede and cases of suffocation, East Java police chief Nico Afinta told reporters.

Video footage from local news channels showed people rushing onto the pitch in the stadium in Malang and images of body bags. There have been previous outbreaks of trouble at matches in Indonesia, with a strong rivalry between clubs sometimes leading to violence among supporters.

In an earlier statement on Sunday, Mr Afinta had said two police officers were among the dead. Thirty-four people died inside the stadium and the rest died in hospital, the police chief had said.

Indonesia’s chief security minister Mahfud MD said on Sunday that the number of spectators exceeded the capacity of a stadium where there was a crowd stampede that killed 129. In an Instagram post, he said 42,000 tickets had been issued for a stadium that had a capacity to hold 38,000 people.

Indonesia’s sports minister Zainudin Amali said the authorities would re-evaluate safety at football matches and consider not allowing spectators.

“We’re sorry for this incident… this is a regrettable incident that injures our football at a time when supporters can watch football matches from the stadium,” he told broadcaster Kompas.

“We will thoroughly evaluate the organisation of the match and the attendance of supporters. Will we return to banning supporters from attending the matches? That is what we will discuss.”

The match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya took place at the Kanjuruhan Stadium. After Arema lost 3-2 on its home field, dozens of fans rushed to the field. The Times of Indonesia reported that security officers tried to keep the crowd at bay by hitting and kicking supporters.

As fights broke out, the authorities fired bursts of tear gas onto the field and into the stands. One video from the scene showed fans running away from clouds of tear gas on the field.

Local news outlets said thousands of fans struggled to breathe and several eventually fainted.

The Indonesian top league immediately suspended play for at least a week.

“We are concerned and deeply regret this incident,” said president director of PT Liga Indonesia Baru Akhmad Hadian Lukita. “We share our condolences, and hopefully this will be a valuable lesson for all of us.”

Soccer violence has long been a problem for Indonesia. Violent, often deadly rivalries between major teams are common. Some teams even have fan clubs with so-called commanders, who lead armies of supporters to matches across Indonesia.

Flares are often thrown on the field and riot police are a regular presence at many matches. Since the 1990s, dozens of fans have been killed in soccer-related violence.

Among global stadium disasters, 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death in Britain in April 1989, when an overcrowded and fenced-in enclosure collapsed at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.

Indonesia is to host the Fifa under-20 World Cup in May and June next year. They are also one of three countries bidding to stage next year’s Asian Cup, the continent’s equivalent of the Euros, after China pulled out as hosts.

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