Indonesian Soccer Tragedy Is Latest in History of Stadium Disasters

Soccer matches around the world have seen deadly stadium disasters, sometimes set off by crowd violence and often made worse by inept police responses that result in spectators being crushed as they try to flee.

These deadly events have prompted major changes, like phasing out fenced-in terraces where crowds of fans can stand in favor of seating-only stadiums. But fatal tramplings still occur, with more than 150 killed in Indonesia on Saturday.

Here are some of the worst past disasters.

More than 300 people were killed and more than 500 injured in a riot in Lima, Peru, set off by a referee’s decision to nullify Peru’s equalizing goal in the final minutes of an Olympic qualifying match against Argentina. In that May 24, 1964, episode, some fans stormed the field of the Estadio Nacional, and others hurled objects at the police, who responded by throwing tear gas grenades, driving panicking crowds into locked exit corridors. Most of those killed were trampled to death in the tunnels, but an unknown number were shot by the police.

The deadly crush at a match between a Moscow team and the visiting Dutch side on Oct. 20, 1982, was long wrapped in secrecy. Official reports mentioned only a handful of injuries, until it emerged in 1989 that at least 66 people had been killed, with one Soviet newspaper saying the death toll was as high as 340. The blame was first put on football hooligans, but Soviet news media later said the police had forced fans out through a single corridor at the Luzhniki Stadium, where they were crushed as others tried to rush back into the stadium after hearing news of a late goal from the Soviet side.

Local authorities and some news outlets had long blamed drunk and unruly Liverpool supporters for the death of 97 soccer fans at a F.A. Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in Sheffield on April 15, 1989. That notion was finally rejected by a British inquest in 2016, which found that those killed in the Hillsborough Stadium had been the victims of mistakes by the police. It was a vindication that survivors had been seeking for decades. That disaster spurred safety reforms, including the removal of standing areas and fences around soccer fields.

When fans of Kumasi Asante Kotoko began to throw objects onto the field as their team fell behind their chief rival, Hearts of Oak, the police fired tear gas into the stands, setting off a chaotic race for the exits that killed 126 people. Joe Aggrey, the deputy sports minister of Ghana, told the BBC that he believed the use of tear gas caused the disaster, adding he saw groups of young dead men too numerous for him to count. “I’m devastated,” he said.

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