Hundreds Dead and Injured in Indonesian Soccer Stadium Disaster

A pitch invasion and tear gas both played a role in the tragedy

Motorists commute outside Kanjuruhan stadium the morning after a football match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya in Malang, East Java on October 2, 2022.

By Tobias Carroll

Over the years, there have been a number of harrowing events at athletic facilities that have prompted sports’ governing bodies to rethink certain aspects of the gameday experience. In 1989, 97 Liverpool supporters died while watching their team play against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough — a tragic event that still looms large over the sport.

Now, another soccer game has led to another unspeakable tragedy. As The Guardian reports, at least 125 people have died in the aftermath of a disaster at Kanjuruhan Stadium, located in East Java, Indonesia. The match was between two rivals, Persebaya Surabaya and Arema, both of whom play in the top division of Indonesian soccer, Liga 1.

According to The Guardian‘s reporting, supporters rushed the pitch after the game, and riot police responded by using tear gas — a violation of FIFA regulations governing crowd control. This, in turn, led to mass suffocation of supporters and police alike; the article also notes that 320 other attendees were injured in the proceedings.

A number of authorities, including Indonesia’s president, have called for an investigation into how this took place and a revision of regulations to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again.

Unfortunately, pitch invasions have become a growing part of soccer. Earlier this year, The Athletic published an in-depth look at the phenomenon. One quote from that, which appeared in the article’s headline, feels especially chilling now. The article quoted Professional Footballers’ Association chair John Mousinho, who observed that “it’s probably only a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt.” His prediction came true a few months later.