A stampede that marred the footfall final in the 26th Southeast Asian Games last Monday (November 21) left two people dead and a nine-year-old boy in a coma.
An Agence France Presse report said the incident happened after thousands of fans lined up for tickets to watch the much anticipated final between Indonesia and Malaysia outside the gates of Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta.
The report said hundreds were squashed against ticket barriers while others had to crouch on the aisles and walkways. Bung Karno stadium has a capacity of 88,000.
Stadium authorities were not able to control the crowd. Riot police had to chase away fans who set fire to a ticket booth and rushed into the media center. A stampede erupted when a gate at Section 15 was momentarily opened prompting the crowd to rush to enter.
The football match ended 4-3 in favor of Malaysia who won the gold medal. Hostile Indonesian fans vented their ire against the Malaysian players, who had to be escorted out.
The report quoted Rita Subowo, one of the games organizers, as saying, “we have the security in place but sadly there are sometimes people who go over the top and we can’t control that.”
Indonesia had been facing criticism for organization problems such as building delays and insufficient accommodation and transport. Reports of unsafe facilities and lack of personnel have marred the games.
The Malaysian football association’s secretary-general Azzuddin Ahmad has expressed sadness over the deaths. “It is unfortunate that the game has come to such a point that hooligans and vandals now are spoiling what should be an enjoyable pastime.”
We cannot overstress the need for appropriate security and safety measures when holding big crowd matches such as the SEA Games football games. Myanmar will do well to take heed and undertake the relevant precautions as it hosts the games next.