Soccer fans in Indonesia rushed the field after a professional soccer match on Saturday night, prompting the police to fire tear gas into tightly packed crowds and setting off a stampede that killed at least 125 people, local officials said.
Fans had packed the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, Indonesia, to see the home team —Arema — take on Persebaya Surabaya. After Arema lost the game 3-2, fans rushed the field.
The unrest 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, 125 people were dead, according to a spokesman for the national police. There were reports that an additional 300 had been injured. The death toll had risen and fallen throughout the day, and police said earlier tolls may have counted some of the dead twice.
The toll made 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.
In a televised speech to the nation, President Joko Widodo said he had asked the national police chief to conduct a thorough investigation into what happened and ordered an evaluation of 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.
Human rights organizations condemned the use of tear gas, which is prohibited by FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. Eyewitnesses said that the gas was at times fired indiscriminately into the stands, forcing the overcapacity crowd to rush for the exits.
“The excessive use of force through the use of tear gas and inappropriate crowd control was the cause of the large number of fatalities,” Indonesia’s Legal Aid Foundation said in a statement.
But the East Java police chief, Mr. Afinta, defended the use of tear gas, saying it was deployed “because there was anarchy.”
“They were about to attack the officers and had damaged the cars,” he said.
Overcapacity also exacerbated the situation, according to Indonesia’s Legal Aid Foundation. The local soccer committee had printed 42,000 tickets for a stadium with 38,000 capacity, according to Mahfud MD, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.
He said the victims died “because of the stampede” — they were trampled on and suffocated to death.
“There were no victims of beatings or mistreatment of the supporters,” he said.
The soccer league, PT Liga Indonesia Baru, suspended play for at least a week and offered its condolences in a statement.
The national governing body for soccer, the PSSI, also offered condolences and said an investigation was underway but appeared to cast blame on fans of the Arema club, saying it “regrets the action” of the fans.
Soccer violence has long been a problem for Indonesia, where violent, often deadly rivalries between major teams are common. Flares are often thrown on the field, and riot police are a regular presence at many matches. Since the 1990s, dozens of fans have been killed in soccer-related violence.
Sui Lee Wee reported from Bangkok, and Muktita Suhartono from Jakarta. Dera Menra Sijabat contributed reporting from Jakarta, and Damien Cave from Sydney, Australia.