22 die in football stadium stampede
A STADIUM stampede at a football World Cup qualifier featuring several players based in England and Scotland has killed at least 22 fans and injured 132 others in the Ivory Coast.
It is believed a collapsed wall sparked crowd panic at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny stadium in Abidjan shortly before Ivory Coast beat Malawi 5-0.
Hibs’ 24-year-old defender Souleymane “Sol” Bamba was among the British footballers who played on in the wake of the tragedy, making his competitive debut for Ivory Coast from the substitutes bench.
English Premiership footballers who were playing included Chelsea strikers Didier Drogba, who scored twice, and Salomon Kalou, who scored once.
Desire Tagro, the minister of the interior, said that the stadium was overrun with people who pushed against each other, setting off the panic that led to a stampede. “Lots of fans showed
up,” Tagro said. “They started pushing because the match was about to start and each and every one wanted in.”
It is understood the tragedy occurred before kick-off, however the game was allowed to go ahead.
Around 50,000 fans were packed into the stadium which was sold out in advance of the game after cut-price tickets were put on sale. First reports indicated part of a wall fell over in the stadium, prompting a crush of fans, and reports added that police may have fired tear gas and increased the panic.
“Spectators who did not buy tickets were jostling before the match,” said Ivory Coast’s sports minister, Dagobert Banzio. “They smashed one of the main gates of the stadium. They were trampled.”
Ivory Coast also boasted Arsenal’s Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure, Tottenham’s DidierZokora andWest Brom defender Abdoulaye Meite in their line-up.
Bamba, who won his first cap in a friendly against Israel last year, made his first competitive appearance four minutes from the end of the 90 minutes.
Ivory Coast’s team, coached by BosnianVahid Halilhodzic, are looking to secure one of Africa’s berths for the World Cup finals, which take place next year in South Africa.
Mr Banzio had appealed for strong public support for Halilhodzic’s team ahead of the match. Reports in Ivory Coast suggested the stadium was over-crowded, leading to the disaster.
FIFA had instigated a programme of stadium inspec- tions across Africa before the 2010 World Cup qualifiers and Abidjan’s Felix HouphouetBoigny Stadium was passed as safe for international matches.
Hundreds of fans have died in recent years during riots and stampedes at football matches across Africa.
A 2001 stampede at a stadium in Ghana left 130 people dead, the worst football disaster ever in Africa.
Last September, 11 people were killed in a stadium riot in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in June eight people died in a crush in Liberia.
South Africa is spending several billion rand on building new venues and infrastructure for the World Cup, which it will host in 2010.
RESCUED: An injured fan is carried away during a World Cup game that saw 22 people killed in a stampede.
SOL BAMBA: Hibernian player also featured in the match.