JAMBAR, Indonesia (AP) — Family and friends of 125 people who died in a deadly crash after an Indonesian soccer match mourned as the bodies of the victims were returned home Monday. Seventeen children are also among the dead.
Grieving family members struggled to come to terms with the sudden loss of their loved one at a football match in Malang, East Java, watched only by fans of hometown Arima FC as organizers Indonesia Persiba Surabaya supporters were banned from visiting due to a history of violent football matches.
The crash was one of the world’s deadliest disasters at a sporting event. President Joko Widodo ordered an investigation into security procedures, and called the FIFA chief’s death “a dark day for everyone involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension”.
22-year-old Faikut Al-Hakma of Arimania – a favorite for Arima fans – died when he ran into exit 12 at Kanjurohan Stadium.
Dozens of friends are traveling to watch the game, her friend, Abdul Muqid, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday. Only one of the four entered the stadium as tickets were sold out. He later bought a ticket separately from a broker and then learned about the commotion inside the stadium.
“I have to find him, save him… it stops me from thinking about anything else,” Muqid recalled, “The reality is really… really scary!”
Two of his friends died and two others were injured. Muqid found Hakima’s body lying in a building in the yard of the stadium, her face covered with yellow wounds and broken ribs.
At Hakima’s parents’ home in Jember, East Java province, relatives screamed as an ambulance arrived with her body, wrapped in white clothes and a black blanket.
“I can’t put into words how sad it is to lose my sister,” said Noor Laila, Hikmat’s older sister. He was just a big fan of Arima who wanted to watch his favorite team play. She shouldn’t have died just for this,” she wiped away tears.
Muqeed found out that another of his friends had died, and he was taking Hakeem’s body to the hospital in an ambulance. Muqeed said, 19-year-old Noval Putra Auliya was an orphan who was being cared for by his brother because his parents died five years ago.
The Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection said that at least 17 children were killed and seven children were injured and taken to hospitals. Police say that a total of 323 people were injured in this incident, some of them are in critical condition.
Witnesses said fans flooded the pitch and demanded that Arima’s management explain why, after 23 years of unbeaten home matches against Persabaya, it ended in a 3-2 defeat on Saturday night. Around 42,000 Arima fans threw bottles and other objects at the players and football officials. At least five police cars were burnt outside the stadium.
Riot police tried to quell the violence, firing tear gas, including into the spectator stands, and causing chaos among fans who made a panicked, chaotic run to get out. Most of the 125 people were crushed to death or suffocated. It is said that the dead include children and two other policemen.
“I assure you that the investigation into this case will be conducted thoroughly and seriously,” National Police Chief Listio Sigit Prabo said at a press conference late Sunday.
Widodo ordered the suspension of the Premier League until security is reassessed and security is tightened. The Indonesian Football Association has also banned Arima from hosting football matches for the rest of the season.
Amnesty International has called on Indonesia to investigate the use of tear gas at the stadium and ensure that those found guilty of violations are brought to justice. While FIFA has no control over domestic matches, it has advised against the use of tear gas in football stadiums.
Despite the lack of international awards in Indonesia’s sport, there is concentration in the soccer-obsessed nation, where fanaticism often ends in violence. According to the data of Save Our Soccer, Indonesia’s football watchdog, 78 people have been killed in incidents related to the game in the past 28 years.
Saturday’s match was one of the world’s worst disasters in sports, including the 1996 World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City where more than 80 died and more than 100 were injured. In April 2001, more than 40 people were killed during a soccer match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.