22 die in foot­ball sta­dium stam­pede

The Herald - - Front Page - MARTIN WIL­LIAMS

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.

Pic­ture: Luc Gnago/Reuters

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.

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