Soccer’s worst disasters: Same mistakes by police, fans die

Soccer’s worst disasters: Same mistakes by police, fans die
Football club supporters gather during a vigil at Kapten I Wayan Dipta Stadium, after a riot and stampede at Kanjuruhan Stadium following a match between Arema and Persebaya Surabaya, in Bali on October 3, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 October 2022

Soccer’s worst disasters: Same mistakes by police, fans die

Soccer’s worst disasters: Same mistakes by police, fans die
  • Soccer’s three worst stadium tragedies occurred over a 60-year span but are so strikingly similar that its clear lessons haven’t been learned
  • Soccer was believed to have reached a turning point 33 years ago with the Hillsborough disaster

DUBAI: Police fire tear gas into a crowd of soccer fans, who panic and rush for the exits.
There are so many trying to escape and some of the gates are locked. The stadium becomes a death trap.
People are trampled in the desperation. Others suffocate, crushed by the weight of bodies around them.
They are the details of last weekend’s soccer game in Malang, Indonesia, where 131 people, some of them children, died in a crush after police fired tear gas at fans of home team Arema FC.
It’s also the story of the Estadio Nacional disaster in Lima, Peru, in 1964, when 328 died in a panic sparked by tear gas. It was the same in Accra, Ghana, in 2001, when 126 died.
Soccer’s three worst stadium tragedies occurred over a 60-year span but are so strikingly similar that its clear lessons haven’t been learned.
The world’s most popular game has historic problems of hooliganism, and Indonesia has its share of team rivalries that have led to violence. But Arema had the only fans in the stadium. Just them and the police.
“Not a single rival supporter. How can that match kill more than 100 people?” said a sobbing Gilang Widya Pramana, the president of Arema.
The blame has landed at the feet of the police, like it did in Lima, and Accra, and elsewhere.
Some Arema supporters rushed the field in anger at their team’s loss. Yet, major soccer tragedies have almost always been caused, experts say, by a heavy-handed overreaction by police and poor stadium safety. Firing tear gas in enclosed stadiums is universally condemned by security experts. Locking exits goes against all safety regulations.
“Actually, fans killing other fans is an incredibly rare thing,” said Prof. Geoff Pearson of the University of Manchester, an expert on the policing of soccer fans. “When we look at pretty much all the major (soccer) tragedies, I can’t think of an exception off the top of my head, all of these have been caused by unsafe stadiums or practices, or inappropriate policing.”
Indonesia, a country of 273 million, is due to host next year’s Under-20 World Cup. It is soccer’s “sleeping giant,” said James Montague, a journalist and author who traveled there to watch games with fans.
Montague found a passion for soccer that matches, even outstrips, the game’s leading countries. He said he also found “largely decrepit” stadiums, corruption and mismanagement everywhere and the kind of police that would “smash me in the face with a baton just because I’m standing there watching a football match.”
Soccer was believed to have reached a turning point 33 years ago with the Hillsborough disaster, where 97 Liverpool fans died as a result of a crush at a stadium in Sheffield, England, in 1989. Police were eventually found to have been to blame for letting fans into an already overcrowded section but it took 27 years before the police’s lies and coverups — blaming drunken fans for the deaths — were fully exposed.
Hillsborough led to sweeping reforms in English soccer, making stadiums safer and demanding police change.
That echoes in Indonesia this week. So do calls for justice. Indonesian authorities have laid charges against six people for the crush, three of them police officers.
But a lack of ultimate accountability — “the state closes ranks,” Montague said — has also been a repeat feature.
A BBC report on the 50th anniversary of the Lima disaster found that only one police officer had been sentenced for soccer’s deadliest stadium tragedy, getting 30 months in prison. More than 30 years after Hillsborough, one official has been convicted of a safety offense and fined. Police were acquitted after Africa’s worst sports disaster in Accra despite an inquiry that blamed them for the reckless firing of tear gas and rubber bullets.
Soccer authorities stand helpless. FIFA, the governing body of world soccer based in Switzerland, has recommendations that tear gas should never be used in stadiums. But soccer bodies can’t dictate the tactics used by a country’s security forces, even if it’s at a soccer game.
“It is all down to the organized culture of the police,” said Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe, a group that represents fans’ interests.
Soccer’s inability to interfere in domestic security matters is underlined by the situation in Egypt, where a 2012 stadium riot that killed 74 people came amid a decade of harsh crackdowns on fans by security forces. Dozens of fans have been killed in encounters with police at and away from games, and some fan groups were declared terrorist organizations because they were critical of the Egyptian government, which has been widely accused of human rights violations.
The African soccer body is even based in Cairo but has no authority to intervene.
It’s the police, Pearson said, who have to be “willing to admit their mistakes and learn from their mistakes.” But that kind of institutional change is grudging.
Hillsborough did bring effective reform for England, but it stands almost alone. Lessons were lost after Lima and Accra, and the same can happen again after Indonesia.
Only days after last weekend’s tragedy, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at soccer fans outside a stadium in Argentina and one person died in the chaos.
George Lawson worked at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation when he raced to the unfolding tragedy at Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra 21 years ago. He remembered being stunned by the sight of dozens of bodies lying on the ground. He recalled his country coming to a standstill.
But while an inquiry demanded the stadium be totally upgraded, the only lasting change has been a bronze statue erected outside as a memorial, with the inscription: “I am my brother’s keeper.”
“When things happen like this, there’s a hullabaloo,” Lawson said. “And after some time people forget about it.”


Saudi Sports for All Federation to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon

Saudi Sports for All Federation to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon
Updated 24 sec ago

Saudi Sports for All Federation to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon

Saudi Sports for All Federation to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon
  • Runners will take part in 4km, 10km and 21km races on Dec. 10 across the Formula One circuit in Jeddah
  • The end of the half-marathon will see 24 winners awarded SR1 million ($266,000) in cash prizes

The Saudi Sports for All Federation has completed its preparations to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon on Sunday, Dec. 10, with the support of the Ministry of Sports and the Quality-of-Life Program.

Through this important event, the SFA aims to promote an active lifestyle and foster a competitive spirit among participants.

The SFA has called on the public to take part in the event, which will include 4km, 10km and 21km races. Participants can visit the Marathon Village, which will be open on Dec. 9, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., to collect their race numbers and racing tools. The village will host a range of entertainment events and provide food and beverages.

The tracks will cross Jeddah’s Formula One circuit, while the end of the half-marathon will see 24 winners awarded cash prizes, estimated at SR1 million ($266,000) in total.

The federation’s preparations to host the race were made in alignment with the Kingdom’s ongoing Vision 2030, which encourages Saudi citizens and residents to practice regular physical activity and participate in sporting events.

The SFA also organized a successful full marathon in Riyadh, the Kingdom’s first, which included a 42km track and attracted more than 10,000 participants from around the world.


Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women
Updated 50 min 3 sec ago

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women
  • Judy Murray, Barbara Schett-Eagle and Mats Wilander hold tennis try-outs for women on sidelines of Diriyah Tennis Cup
  • Judy Murray: ‘To be able to come here against the backdrop of the Diriyah Tennis Cup, which is a mens’ event, and have a whole womens’ program going on around it, is very, very important’

Female students from Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) Riyadh participated in tennis coaching sessions with leading international coaches and former players as part of the Diriyah Tennis Cup program.

The students were coached by Judy Murray, mother of leading players Jamie and Andy Murray, former World Number 1 Mats Wilander from Sweden and Austrian Barbara Schett-Eagle.

Some of the women students held a racquet in their hands for the first time and were introduced to the sport by the tennis legends.

“At the sessions we had a real mix of complete beginners who want to learn the game, some people who have been playing for years and wish to improve and also teachers and coaches,” said Judy Murray.

“I have worked in tennis for over 30 years and the last twelve years I have really focused on encouraging women and girls. Not just to play tennis but to get involved in delivering tennis. We don’t have enough female coaches in tennis worldwide, so actually to be able to come here against the backdrop of the Diriyah Tennis Cup, which is a mens’ event, and have a whole womens’ program going on in the community around it, is very, very important.”

“As a — hopefully — role model and female coach I like to go out and share all the content I have created over many years. I am so passionate about getting more women and girls involved, so this is a lovely opportunity for me to come to Riyadh to do that.”

Former leading player Mats Wilander said: “People are very much into sport here. To play tennis with the female students was wonderful. Judy Murray has a wonderful program. It’s important, to bring tennis to the women of Saudi Arabia, women in general and people in general. Everybody should have a chance to experience and try out the sport.”

Former Austrian player Barbara Schett-Eagle added: “I had an unbelievable day playing tennis with the female students, some playing for the first time. I love tennis. It’s my love and my passion. At the end, they were all able to hit a tennis ball. Some never held a racket before. It was great, there were lots of smiles.”

The President of the Saudi Tennis Federation Arij Almutabagani said that she sees a bright future for tennis in the kingdom.

“There is a strong possibility of finding some young talent. We are really starting at the grassroots, at the beginning, but we have to start somewhere. I think Judy Murray is a great inspiration and I think this program with her is a good start and I hope we can work with her in the future,” said Almutabagani.


Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic

Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic
Updated 07 December 2022

Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic

Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic
  • Lowry joins the top-ranked player in the world Rory McIlroy and DP World Tour stars Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox and Tyrrell Hatton in January’s Rolex Series event
  • Irishman Lowry’s career highlight so far came when he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush, winning by an impressive six strokes

Shane Lowry, the 2019 Open Champion, has announced that he will compete in the Dubai Desert Classic.

Lowry joins the top-ranked player in the world Rory McIlroy and DP World Tour stars Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox and Tyrrell Hatton in January’s Rolex Series event.

Irishman Lowry’s career highlight so far came when he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush, winning by an impressive six strokes. A four-time winner on the DP World Tour, and twice on the PGA TOUR, Lowry secured his second Rolex Series title at the BMW PGA Championship in September, in a season that also included a top three finish at The Masters.

On the prospect of teeing off at Emirates Golf Club from 26th to 29th January — as he aims to add more silverware in the UAE following his 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title — Lowry said: “I always enjoy going to Dubai and I am delighted to be returning to Emirates Golf Club for the Dubai Desert Classic in January.

“I’ve had success in the UAE in the past, and it would be great to add my name to the impressive list of players who have lifted this trophy.”

Fleetwood ended the 2022 season in style, securing his sixth DP World Tour title when he successfully defended his Nedbank Golf Challenge title in November. The former European Number One has also tasted success in the UAE with two wins in Abu Dhabi, and was runner-up to Ryder Cup team-mate and fellow fan favorite Lowry at the 2019 Open. It is his joint best Major outing to date, having also finished second at the US Open the previous year.

New Zealand’s Fox has had a stunning 2022, finishing second behind McIlroy in the season-long DP World Tour Rankings after winning the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in February and the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October. With a further eight top tens throughout the season, including a narrow playoff loss at the Dutch Open, the Kiwi, will be looking to take that impressive form into 2023 and his appearance in Dubai.

Englishman Hatton is another tournament addition with considerable pedigree, who has experienced recent success in the region following his 2021 triumph in Abu Dhabi. The two-time Ryder Cup star has six DP World Tour victories to his name, including four Rolex Series titles. After a runner-up finish at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, he will be aiming to carry on that form when he returns to Dubai in January.

The four will join two-time winner of the Dubai Desert Classic, four-time Major winner and current World Number 1 McIlroy, who has already confirmed his participation.

Simon Corkill, Executive Tournament Director of Dubai Desert Classic, said: “The latest player announcement shows the strength of the Dubai Desert Classic and its ability to attract the very best players in the world. Over the years we have been proud to assemble stellar line-ups for fans to enjoy some scintillating golfing action — and the 2023 edition will be no exception.”

“To add the 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton to the field guarantees that we have a world class field. Ryan Fox will come to us on the back of a brilliant 2022, his best career year to date and will be another excellent addition to our line-up,” added Corkill.


Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak

Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak
Updated 07 December 2022

Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak

Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak
  • The Blue Samurai were eliminated from the World Cup on penalties by Croatia
  • The defeat did not stop hundreds of fans from travelling to an airport near Tokyo to welcome the players and coach Hajime Moriyasu

NARITA, Japan: Japan will put their World Cup heartbreak behind them and focus on becoming Asian champions for a fifth time, captain Maya Yoshida said after the team returned home on Wednesday.
The Blue Samurai were eliminated from the World Cup on penalties by Croatia in the last 16 on Monday, denying them a first-ever place in the quarter-finals.
But the defeat did not stop hundreds of fans from traveling to an airport near Tokyo to welcome the players and coach Hajjime Moriyasu back from Qatar.
“We won’t stop here,” Yoshida said at a news conference after arriving.
“We will aim to become the best in Asia,” he added.
“Our fight will continue. As long as we keep playing football, we must keep fighting.”
The Asian Cup will also be held in Qatar after original host China dropped out due to its strict anti-Covid policies.
The tournament was set to be held in June and July 2023 but is now likely to be postponed until early 2024 to avoid Qatar’s fierce summer heat.
Japan won the most recent of their four Asian Cup titles the last time Qatar hosted the tournament, in 2011.
The Blue Samurai could not find a way past Croatia in the last 16 of the World Cup, but they stunned former champions Germany and Spain to top their first-round group.
“We couldn’t reach new heights but my players showed us a new era, and this is just the beginning,” said Moriyasu.
Among the crowd of fans waiting to welcome the team home at the airport was 55-year-old Takamichi Masui.
He said the wins over Germany and Spain were proof that “Japan has become a soccer powerhouse.”
Another fan, 37-year-old Takahiro Ichikawa, said that like captain Yoshida, he is only looking ahead.
“For now, I hope the national team will focus on pulling off a solid performance in the Asian Cup in Qatar,” he said.


Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh
Updated 07 December 2022

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh
  • Club likely to strengthen the squad in the January window
  • The Magpies are in the Saudi capital for a training camp that includes a friendly against Al-Hilal

RIYADH: Towering palms, the tinkling of ivories, clinking of coffee cups and a warm winter sun hue about the Saudi skies, is not your usual location for a Newcastle United transfer summit.

It’s a far cry from the inner bowels of St James’ Park, where head coach Eddie Howe, along with the club’s minority owners, thrashed out a summer raid for one of the hottest prospects in the game, Sweden international Alexander Isak. Not since the Vikings have the European elites been so unsettled by a force from the north.

But Howe, meeting with club chiefs and the money men at the Public Investment Fund, spent his Tuesday evening in the Kingdom talking transfers with Al-Olaya the backdrop, the Four Seasons an opulent frame.

Beyond the ostentatious surrounds lies a steely determination, one funded in the Gulf, but driven with North East grit. A goal not publicly admitted, but privately discussed. A want to take Newcastle United into the promised land, the UEFA Champions League, a feat the club has not achieved on Tyneside in two decades.

Lying third in the Premier League, which is beyond even the wildest of Newcastle fans’ expectations, the prospect is not out of the realms of possibility.

But will that be boosted by another Magpies’ January transfer window raiding party? Howe says talks have started.

“I have had half an eye on January and the squad and how it looks,” he said, confirming the transfer talks with Newcastle chiefs.

“We need to be adaptable and prepared for what is always a difficult window. But if there is something we can do to improve the team, I, naturally as the manager, would like to look at that.”

Expectation may be that Newcastle will be bold in their moves with the likes of England international James Maddison, however such a switch has been played down by those in the know.

More likely is movements for players more in the Isak or Sven Botman mold, ready to attack the Premier League, but not at an English topflight premium. And key to this January regeneration will be the right players, at the right price and for the right reasons, if at all.

“Me, sitting here now, I am not expecting too much business, whether incoming or outgoing, but it is football and it is January so it’s unpredictable,” Howe told Arab News.

“We can’t predict what is going to happen with our own squad at times, in terms of fitness and availability, so we do need to be ready to act if we need to. The need for that will be minimized by keeping a fit and healthy squad of players.

“We look like, on paper, we have a very strong squad when everyone is fit. Everyone is not fit currently, and that has a bearing on what you look to do in January.

“Probably the squad, in my eyes, looks different to what it did in the summer because of how well players have done — and from my perspective, I can’t ignore that.”

On the level of those who may arrive, Botman and Isak have set the blueprint but financial fair play rules, until United’s commercial revenues are boosted significantly, will always be the elephant in the ever-expanding room.

Howe continued: “In my position you are keen to sign the best players you can — but those players come at a premium, as you know. Botman wasn’t cheap, Alex wasn’t cheap. Those are players who can influence the starting 11. Do we have the finances for that? I do not know. That might impact our options on that one.

“As a manager I am always looking to improve the team. I will never sit here and be content — I don’t think that is the right way to manage. My way to take the team to new heights is to improve through the training of the players we have. If we can’t get to a certain level then we need to find that in the transfer market. And, of course, you have to work within the guidelines of the club.”

Meanwhile, United’s trip, which started on Sunday and ends on Saturday, is being officially supported by, it’s been announced, Saudi telecommunications giant stc.

In a further boost to club revenues, stc have been named as the official digital partner of the tour and the news follows hot on the heels of Saudi Airlines’ sponsorship of the tour to the Middle East.

A club statement confirmed: “The partnership will provide stc with a digital presence at the Al-Hilal versus Newcastle United fixture, as well as an ongoing presence at St. James’ Park throughout the 2022/23 Premier League campaign, and supporters will have exclusive opportunities to win memorabilia and tickets.”

The NUFC’s chief commercial officer, Peter Silverstone, said: “Our ambition is to grow our supporter base in Saudi Arabia, a country whose young population includes a large, passionate and highly engaged football community.

“We are delighted to welcome stc to our growing family of partners and have them on board as our second strategic partner for the club’s visit to Saudi Arabia this December.

“stc digitally connects millions of individuals and businesses throughout the Middle East and their market knowledge, expertise and experience in sport partnerships will complement our drive to reach and engage with more people across one of our key markets. We look forward to working closely with stc.”