AFCON football stadium crush kills eight in Cameroon

By Jaysim Hanspal

Posted on Tuesday, 25 January 2022 18:36
People walk up the stands at Olembe Stadium in Yaounde
People walk up the stands at the Olembe Stadium, which is to host the opening ceremony of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), in Yaounde, Cameroon January 8, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

A disaster in Cameroon yesterday left eight people dead and 38 injured in a stadium accident at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) football tournament.

The accident, which occurred at an entry gate to the Paul Biya stadium in the capital Yaoundé, ahead of a match between Cameroon and Comoros, has left fans shaken up.

Videos circulating online show the panic and confusion as people struggled to exit the stadium gates, which some present at the match have speculated caused the crush. Others stood still, unaware of the crisis unfolding in front of them.

Two children, aged six and 14, are among the dead, and seven of those injured remain in critical condition. The stadium, which has a capacity of 60,000 people, had planned for a capacity of 80% due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. According to official reports, 50,000 fans attempted to attend yesterday’s match.

Football scout Ed Dove was at the match and watched the chaos unfold. He says the crush occurred because of poor organisation – many people went to the grounds without tickets, and Covid-19 testing is said to have created bottlenecks. In addition, the east gate of the stadium was closed, which was unplanned.

He said: “It was meant to be a historic game, a lot of people came to see the ambience. A policeman said to me that either a gate or a barrier had come down and fallen on people at the front.”

“After the incident, people were being removed from the stadium, wrapped in silver foil.”

FIFA, the global football association, has sent its “deepest condolences” to the families and friends of the victims.

Will AFCON continue?

At a press conference in Cameroon today, Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Patrice Motsepe said the rest of the tournament would not be cancelled. He said: “There is a duty to listen to the various stakeholders. The conclusion was to observe a moment of silence before every game.”

Motsepe also mentioned that security is the responsibility of the Cameroonian government, not the CAF. However, he stated: “This is not the time to point fingers, you can’t say CAF is to blame. We have partnerships. We are a collective and will be guided by the [Cameroonian government’s investigation] report.”

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has ordered an investigation into the tragedy. A statement released from the administration reads “The injured were sent to four health facilities in the city of Yaoundé, where they were immediately taken care of.”

It continued: “In the face of this tragedy, the seriousness of which provokes emotion and consternation, the head of state addresses his most sincere condolences to the families who have suffered greatly and his wishes for a speedy recovery to those injured.”

As a result, Sunday’s quarter final has been moved to Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium, where tighter safety regulations will be in place. A hearing tomorrow is set to determine if the closure of the east gate contributed to the accident.

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