SYDNEY, Australia — Several people were killed Saturday night after a professional soccer match in Malang, Indonesia, led to riots at the stadium and tear gas being fired into tightly packed crowds by the police, according to league officials and local news reports.
The match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya took place at the Kanjuruhan Stadium. After Arema lost 3-2 on its home field, dozens of fans rushed the field.
The Times of Indonesia reported that security officers tried to keep the crowd at bay by hitting and kicking supporters. As fights broke out, the authorities fired bursts of tear gas onto the field and into the stands. One video from the scene showed fans running away from clouds of tear gas on the field. Local news outlets said thousands of fans struggled to breathe and several eventually fainted.
League officials said the riots caused several deaths, but it was not immediately clear how many. Initial reports from the stadium estimated that there had been dozens of deaths, but that could not be independently confirmed.
The league immediately suspended play for at least a week.
“We are concerned and deeply regret this incident,” said Akhmad Hadian Lukita, president director of PT Liga Indonesia Baru, known as LIB. “We share our condolences and hopefully this will be a valuable lesson for all of us.”
Soccer violence has long been a problem for Indonesia. Violent, often deadly rivalries between major teams are common. Some teams even have fan clubs with so-called commanders, who lead armies of supporters to matches across Indonesia. 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. After Saturday’s match, those numbers will grow once again.
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