AFCON 2021: Deadly Yaounde toll follows long list of African stadium disasters

Rioting and stampedes at African stadiums have taken a deadly toll over the decades with a recurring pattern of incidents, culminating in the latest disaster in Cameroon on Monday.

Rioting and stampedes at African stadiums have taken a deadly toll over the decades with a recurring pattern of incidents, culminating in the latest disaster in Cameroon on Monday.

At least eight people were killed in a stampede as spectators – many suspected to be without tickets – avoided slack controls in attempting to enter Yaounde's Olembe Stadium to watch the home team in the Africa Cup of Nations.

It is the first such disaster at the tournament, Africa’s biggest sports event which has suffered another blow its already tatty reputation for organisation.

Africa’s worst disaster was in Ghana in 2001 when 127 people died in a deadly stampede at the Accra Sports Stadium after police fired tear gas into the stands to quell rowdy fans at a high-profile league match.

One year earlier Zimbabwe police had done much the same, deliberately firing tear gas towards the exits in reaction to supporters throwing objects onto the pitch when their team lost to neighbours South Africa in a World Cup qualifier.

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An inquest found police caused the 13 deaths at the National Sports Stadium but no one was punished. The stadium has since had another stampede when a single spectator died ahead of a Cup of Nations qualifier between Zimbabwe and Congo in 2019.

Bloody fighting between rival supporters led to 74 deaths at the Port Said Stadium in Egypt in 2012. Visiting Al Ahly fans were set upon by those of home club Al Masry, with some thrown to their death from the top of the stands.

Al Ahly fans have long held the attacks were deliberately provoked by state security officials still loyal to ousted President Hosni Mubarak, seeking to punish Al Ahly’s Ultras for their role in his 2011 overthrow and subsequent protests demanding democracy and reform of the police force.

A parliamentary inquiry blamed fans and shoddy policing for the deaths and the head of state security in Port Said was fired along with the board of the Egyptian Football Association.

Spectator attendance at matches in Egypt has been largely restricted in the decade since the disaster.

Poor policing and crowd control has been behind most of the disasters but corrupt practices, too.

An inquiry found that spectators without tickets had bribed gate keepers at Ellis Park in Johannesburg to gain access to the 2001 derby between the country’s most popular clubs, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, adding thousands of extra fans to an already full stadium and resulting in the crush of 43 people.

The stadium was next scheduled to host a quarterfinal tie on Sunday but it will now be played at Yaounde’s Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium.

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