Violence at soccer matches is not unusual, but more than 170 people died Saturday night after a professional soccer match in Malang, Indonesia, when fans rushed the field, prompting the police to fire tear gas into tightly packed crowds and causing many to be trampled, according to local officials.
After the Arema football club lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya, dozens of fans rushed the field at Kanjuruhan Stadium, Arema’s home. The chaos prompted the police to fire tear gas, which caused panic, Inspector General Nico Afinta, the East Java Police chief, said at a news conference. As of Sunday night (Indonesian time), 174 people were dead, according to Emil Elestianto Dardak, East Java’s vice governor. An additional 309 had been injured.
This makes Saturday’s match among the deadliest episodes in the history of soccer. In 1964, at least 300 people died in Peru after an unpopular decision by a referee at a soccer game touched off a riot at the country’s national stadium.
While the use of tear gas has been condemned by human rights organizations, the police called it necessary in this case, saying that fans were attacking officers. The use of the chemical is also prohibited by FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. Eyewitnesses have said that the gas was at times fired indiscriminately into the stands, leading to a rush for the exits.
In a televised speech to the nation, President Joko Widodo said he had asked the national police chief to do a thorough investigation into what happened. He said he had also ordered the minister of youth and sports, the national police chief and the chairman of Indonesia’s football association to evaluate security at soccer matches. “I regret that this tragedy occurred,” Mr. Joko said. “And I hope this is the last football tragedy in the country.”