Malang, Indonesia – The National Football Association announced on Tuesday that the delay in opening the doors of the Indonesian soccer stadium after violence erupted at the end of the match contributed to a disaster in which at least 131 people were killed.
The Indonesian Football Association said it had permanently banned the chief executive and security coordinator of the team that hosted Saturday’s match, Arema FC, for failing to secure the stadium and immediately issued an order to open the gates.
“The doors should have been open, but they are closed,” said Erwin Topping, chair of the league’s disciplinary committee.
Due to the shortage of workers, only a few people were ordered to open the gates, and they had not yet reached some doors when spectators began rushing to escape tear gas fired by the police in an attempt to control the fans who entered the square, an association spokesman Ahmed Al-Riyadh said.
He said all gates should be opened 10 minutes before the end of the match. But on Saturday, 7 minutes after the referee blew the final whistle, several doors remained closed, contributing to the toll of one of the world’s deadliest sporting disasters.
However, police continued to insist on Tuesday that the gates were open but too narrow and could only accommodate two people at a time when hundreds were trying to escape.
In accordance with the recommendations of FIFA and the AFC, stadium exits must be opened at all times during the match for safety purposes. These rules don’t necessarily apply to local or national leagues, but they are nonetheless a safety standard, such as recommending that tear gas not be used as a crowd control measure.
Pictures from Malang Stadium showed four interconnecting door panels that form a single gate. There were 14 gates in total.
Police said their investigations focused on video recordings from security cameras at six of the 14 gates where most of the victims were killed.
“For those six gates, it was not closed but it was very small. It could accommodate two people but hundreds came out. There was busyness,” police spokesman Didi Prasetyo told reporters, adding that the gates were the responsibility of the organisers.
Most of the deaths occurred when riot police fired tear gas and caused fans to panic and ran to the exits. Police moved in after some of Arima’s 42,000 fans entered the field in anger after their team’s 3-2 defeat, their first home loss to visitors Persibaya Surabaya in 23 years.
On Monday, the police announced the dismissal of the police chief and nine elite officers, and 18 others are being investigated to determine their responsibility for firing tear gas inside the stadium.
Some survivors said that some of the exit gates were closed and they were unable to escape. Most of them specifically mentioned Gate 13.
People tried to save themselves after the tear gas was fired. “My group got separated from each other,” said Prasetio Bogiono, a 32-year-old farmer from Malang, who watched the match with his friends near Gate No. 13.
People can no longer stay inside the stadium. We wanted to escape but the gate was closed. This, he said, was why most people died being run over or suffocated. I remember they were screaming that they couldn’t breathe and their eyes hurt.
Those who tried to escape broke through the wall adjacent to Gate No. 13, leaving behind a large crater with graffiti on the walls saying: “Farewell, my brothers and sisters. 10-01-2022”.
Hundreds of Arima supporters and local residents have been honoring the victims at Gates 13 and 12 since Monday. They prayed together, threw rose petals and bouquets of flowers and laid many Arema scarves around the gates.
Puigianto said he had transported more than 20 bodies scattered around Gate 13.
“The poor are them. Lots of bodies were scattered at Gate No. 13. We couldn’t get out of it if we hadn’t moved it. So we carried them and my friends into the square.
Evita Triwardani, a 26-year-old Arima fan, said that in every match she attended, organizers usually opened the gates 15-20 minutes before the match ended. But that Saturday night, she said Gate 13 was closed. She saved herself by running from the stadium through Gate 14, which she said was open.
She said she saw people crying and gasping in clouds of tear gas, and parents holding their children over their shoulders so they could breathe. At least 17 children were among the dead.
The Indonesian Football Association announced that it has banned Arima from hosting any matches attended by its fans in Malang until next year as a result of Saturday’s disaster.
Topping said Arima CEO Abdul Harris, and security coordinator, Soko Sutrisno, have been banned from football for life because they did not secure the stadium and delayed opening the gates.
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