On July 22nd, at least two people were crushed to death in a stampede at the FNB stadium in Soweto during a match between the Orlando Pirates and the Kaizer Chiefs — two of South Africa’s biggest football clubs.
South African police confirmed the deaths and additional injuries, after “a rolling mass of people were trying to get in to the stadium” south of Johannesburg.
For many, the tragic loss of lives was definitely a case of incompetence on the part of the South African authorities, especially because it was hardly the first of such unfortunate stampedes in what is often described as a must-win match between both teams.
While the South African authorities are taking the public criticism they deserve, here is a look at five of the worst stadium tragedies that have happened in Africa.
1) Accra Sports Stadium – Accra‚ Ghana (Death Toll: 127)
Widely regarded as the worst stadium tragedy in Africa, 127 spectators lost their lives after a match between Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko — two of the most successful teams in Ghanaian football.
Hearts of Oak scored two late goals to defeat Kotoko 2–1 and disappointed Kotoko fans reacted by throwing plastic seats and bottles in to the pitch.
Ahead of the game, police anticipated possible crowd trouble, and in an attempt to disperse the rioters, they fired tear gas and rubber bullets in to the stands. The ensuing stampede led to the death of 127 people, many of them crushed to death.
2) Port Said Stadium – Port Said‚ Egypt (Death Toll: 74)
In February of 2012, a riot broke out at the Port Said Stadium during the Egyptian League fixture between Al Masri and Al Ahly, leading to the death of 74 people with another 500 seriously injured.
Reports say supporters of Al-Masri, who were playing at home, attacked players and fans of the visiting Al Ahly with dangerous weapons, including knives‚ swords, and stones.
The Egyptian authorities charged 73 people with various crimes relating to the tragedy. Ten persons were sentenced to death‚ 37 others received prison sentences, and 26 were acquitted.
Egypt’s Health Minister described it as the biggest single disaster in the country’s football history, and in the aftermath of the incident, the government shut down the domestic league for two years.
3) Zamalek Stadium – Cairo‚ Egypt (Death toll: 48-50)
No less than 48 persons were crushed to death on February 17, 1974, hours before a friendly match between Egyptian Premier League side Zamalek SC and Dukla Prague of Czechoslovakia.
Reports say following a change of venue for the match, hordes of Zamalek fans –fearing that they would not get seats for the game — crammed in to the stadium.
As more than 80,000 people tried to gain entrance in to the 40,000 capacity stadium, the walls collapsed, a stampede ensued, and many people were left dead.
The total death toll is reported between 48 to 50 people with another 50 left injured.
4) Ellis Park Stadium – Johannesburg, South Africa (Death toll: 43)
On April 11, 2001, 43 spectators were crushed to death in a stampede at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg as thousands gathered to watch the local Soweto derby match between the Kaizer Chiefs and the Orlando Pirates.
Reports say trouble started when fans, estimated to be in excess of 120,000, tried to force their way in to the 60,000 capacity stadium.
As the match got underway, wild celebrations in the stadium occurred as the Orlando Pirates scored an equalizer that led to an even stronger push from fans eager to get in to the stadium.
In the ensuing stampede, 43 persons‚ including children‚ were killed as police responded by firing tear gas in to the stands.
5) Oppenheimer Stadium – Orkney‚ South Africa (Death Toll: 42)
For the second time on this list, a match between local rivals the Kaizer Chiefs and the Orlando Pirates led to a tragic and avoidable loss of lives.
On January 13, 1991, what was supposed to be a pre-season “friendly” match at the Oppenheimer Stadium, Orkney between two of the most popular club sides in South Africa occurred.
With more than 30,000 fans packed in to the 23,000 capacity stadium, violent protests about a doubtful goal upheld by the referee resulted in a stampede that left 42 persons dead and several more injured.