Football stampede tragedy
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.