In Cameroon, at least eight people died in a stampede outside a stadium hosting an Africa Cup of Nations football match on Monday, according to the country’s Ministry of Communication.
The crush took place at the southern entrance to the Olembe Stadium as tournament hosts Cameroon beat Comoros 2-1 in Yaounde, with at least 38 more people confirmed to have been injured – seven seriously – and taken to nearby hospitals.
The Olembe Stadium, which is limited to 60% capacity due to coronavirus, but 80% when Cameroon play, is also set to host the final on February 6.
On Tuesday, the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Patrice Motsepe, spoke to the press in Yaounde.
Before he started, he asked for all present to observe a moment of silent prayer in memory of the eight people who lost their lives, before announcing a moment’s silence which will also been observed in Tuesday’s AFCON games.
“I’m extremely sad, disappointed and hurt about what happened yesterday and everything will be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Motsepe said.
A thorough report is expected into the incident, with Motsepe saying he hopes to have it by Friday. And although the CAF president said he didn’t want to speculate, he also asked why a gate that was supposed to be open was closed. “Why were those measures not functioning as they were supposed to?”
On Wednesday, Motsepe will meet with the AFCON organizing committee. “The starting point is very clear. I need a report of what happened, what should have happened and the circumstances that led to people being injured and losing their lives, as well as emergency steps to make sure it never happens again.
“I’m told some of the people came to be a part of the atmosphere, including those without tickets. I think we do accept thousands more than expected did arrive. Having said that, we will have tough and hard discussions behind closed doors and I am confident what happened yesterday in terms of proximity of the people allowed near the stadium will never happen again.”
Motsepe said there are legal agreements between CAF and Local Organizing Committee as well as the government of Cameroon, but now was the time to work together towards improving spectator safety rather than pointing the finger about responsibility.
“When people get injured and people lose their lives the last thing I am interested in is it being somebody else’s responsibility. We have to take collective responsibility. Whatever the legalities are we will deal with them later.”
In a government statement, Cameroon’s president Paul Biya “extended his deepest commiserations to the affected families and his best wishes for a speedy recovery to those injured.”
Cameroon is hosting the competition for the first time in 50 years. The country was stripped of AFCON hosting duties in 2019 over infrastructure concerns.
At the time there were also worries over the security situation in the country where English speakers had been protesting for months over marginalization by the francophone-dominated administration.
The global pandemic and incomplete building work had also led to doubts over Cameroon’s readiness to host the tournament in 2022, and in December it was not clear whether the country would be ready.
Confirmation that the competition would proceed came on December 21 when CAF President Patrice Motsepe gave it the greenlight.
kb/rt (AP, Reuters)