Foot­ball stam­pede tragedy

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

OUR hearts go out to the fam­i­lies of two soc­cer fans who died and those in­jured dur­ing a stam­pede at the Car­ling Black La­bel Cup clash be­tween Kaizer Chiefs and Or­lando Pi­rates at FNB Sta­dium on Sat­ur­day.

Have we not learnt from the El­lis Park tragedy in 2001, the worst sport­ing dis­as­terin South Africa’s his­tory and listed as one of the world’s worst, when spec­ta­tors for a derby be­tween the same two teams pushed to get into the packed sta­dium in a tragedy that claimed 43 lives?

Re­ports at the time sug­gested that 120 000 fans were ad­mit­ted – dou­ble the sta­dium’s ca­pac­ity.

The sit­u­a­tion was ag­gra­vated by the ex­cite­ment of a goal scored mo­ments af­ter the game had kicked off, which led to fans still out­side surg­ing for­ward in their de­sire to try and see the ac­tion on the pitch.

That match was sus­pended as, in a macabre scene that lives on in our mem­o­ries, bod­ies – in­clud­ing those of fans as young as 13 – were laid out on the pitch.

The fi­nal tally was 29 dead in­side the sta­dium, and 14 out­side.

In Sat­ur­day’s in­ci­dent, the deaths came out­side the packed sta­dium, and with­out those on the pitch or in the stands even be­ing aware of the sit­u­a­tion un­fold­ing at Gate J.

In a state­ment, the or­gan­is­ers con­firmed two fa­tal­i­ties caused by blunt force trauma, one crit­i­cally in­jured and 16 with mi­nor in­juries, fol­low­ing a turn­stile stam­pede.

The or­gan­is­ers, seem­ingly want­ing to avoid fur­ther panic, let the match con­tinue, with Chiefs se­cur­ing vic­tory against their Soweto ri­vals.

But it was a Pyrrhic vic­tory marred by events in which the death toll weighs like a de­feat for the beau­ti­ful game.

Foot­ball is loved the world over, and South Africa is no ex­cep­tion.

Every mea­sure at every game needs to be taken to en­sure ef­fec­tive crowd con­trol and to avoid stam­pedes.

The or­gan­is­ers have some tough ques­tions to an­swer this week, in par­tic­u­lar whether the al­leged selling of “fake” tick­ets at the gate had a part to play in the lat­est tragedy, and if it was right to al­low the game to con­tinue as if noth­ing had hap­pened.

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