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31 July 2017

Africa’s tragic record of stadium disasters

African football is no stranger to death at stadiums, and two more fans lost their lives in South Africa’s Soweto Derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates at the FNB Stadium on Saturday.

Poor crowd control, overzealous policing and fan misbehaviour have all led to a series of incidents at stadiums across the continent over the last few decades, bringing the pall of death to football in Africa.

KweséESPN rounds up the most infamous of these tragic incidents.

ZAMALEK STADIUM – CAIRO, EGYPT

Date: February 17, 1974

Death toll: 48-50

A friendly match between Egyptian giants Zamalek and Czechoslovakian side Dukla Prague turned deadly when an estimated 80,000 people tried to enter a stadium that held half that.

Walls collapsed, people were crushed and reports suggest between 48 and 50 people lost their lives.

OPPENHEIMER STADIUM – ORKNEY, SOUTH AFRICA

Date: January 13, 1991

Death toll: 42

Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates met in a pre-season friendly at the 23,000 seater Oppenheimer Stadium, but reports say at least 30,000 were let into the venue.

They were not separated and when Chiefs were awarded a dubious goal, Pirates fans reportedly turned violent, attacking rival supporters. This caused a stampede that left 42 people dead.

ELLIS PARK – JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA

Date: April 11, 2001

Death toll: 43

The 60,000 seater stadium in Johannesburg was already full to capacity for the Soweto Derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates when an estimated 30,000 additional fans tried to force their way into the venue.

This caused a crush in which 43 people, including children, were killed. The situation was reportedly exacerbated by police firing tear gas towards the surging fans.

The incident caused a raft of changes in terms of ticketing and crowd control at South African league matches.

ACCRA SPORTS STADIUM – ACCRA, GHANA

Date: May 9, 2001

Death toll: 127

The worst stadium disaster in Africa occurred after a match between Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko, with police fearful before the game that there would be trouble.

Hearts netted two late goals to win the game, after which Kotoko through objects onto the pitch and broke seats.

The police fired tear gas into the stands and from the resultant stampede, 127 souls were lost.

Police were blamed in the aftermath, though nobody was ultimately held responsible.

STADE FÉLIX HOUPHOUËT-BOIGNY – ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST

Date: 29 March, 2009

Death toll: 19

A 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier between home side Ivory Coast and Malawi turned deadly when police fired tear gas at rowdy fans, causing a stampede.

Nineteen people were killed and 135 injured. The match was played despite the incident before kick-off, with the Ivorians winning 5-0.

PORT SAID STADIUM – PORT SAID, EGYPT

Date: 1 February, 2012

Death toll: 74

A riot after an Egyptian league fixture between home side al Masri and Cairo giants Al Ahly caused the death of 74 people, with more than 500 injured.

Al-Masri fans reportedly attacked Ahly supporters with knives, swords and stones, and there were allegations that the riot was politically motivated as the Arab Spring gripped the country.

Some 73 people were ultimately charged with various crimes relating to the atrocity and so far 10 had been sentenced to death, another 37 received prison sentences and 26 were acquitted.

30 JUNE STADIUM – CAIRO, EGYPT

Date: 8 February, 2015

Death toll: 28

Another tragedy for Egypt as it became clear that football could not be played in the country without tensions rising. Some 28 fans died, most crushed to death, in a stampede at an Egyptian league match between Zamalek and ENPPI.

Police had used tear gas to disperse fans trying to force their way into the stadium. In the wake of the tragedy, the Egyptian league was halted for almost two months, but did resume in late March.

As a result of the tragedy, the Egyptian league was not played for the next two years.

BINGU STADIUM – LILONGWE, MALAWI

Date: July 5, 2017

Death toll: Eight

Eight people, including seven children, were killed in a stampede ahead of a match between Nyasa Big Bullets and Silver Strikers that was supposed to be a celebration of Malawi’s independence.

The deaths occurred as fans tried to push their way into the stadium, causing a crush and panic.

FNB STADIUM – SOWETO, SOUTH AFRICA

Date: July 29, 2017

Death toll: Two (expected to rise)

Two fans were confirmed dead and scored of others injured as fans reportedly tried to gain entrance to the FNB Stadium, scene of the 2010 FIFA World Cup final, during a Soweto Derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.

Details have yet to emerge of the full cause, or the final death toll.

By Nick Said, KweséESPN



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