Thursday, March 30, 2023

Cameroon blames ‘huge’ influx of fans for stadium deaths

YAOUNDE, Cameroon ( Associated Press) – Cameroonian officials have blamed a deadly stadium crush at the African Cup of Nations tournament for a “massive” influx of ticketless fans, arriving late in the game and avoiding the host team. Tried to force his way to. Security checks and COVID-19 screening.

In response, the government ordered 250 additional police officers for Cameroon’s next game, the quarter-final against The Gambia on Saturday at a different stadium.

Eight people were killed and 38 others were injured, seven of them seriously, in a stampede in the last 16 matches at the main Olembe stadium of the African Cup in Cameroon-Comoros on Monday. It was one of the worst stadium disasters in the history of Africa’s biggest soccer tournament.

Cameroon’s Sports Minister Narcisse Mouel Kombi said at a news conference on Friday that the full results of the government investigation were not yet available, but revealed some new information.

Close to 60,000 fans tried to come to the game in Olembe, Combi said, when the crowd was capped at a maximum of 48,000 people due to COVID-19 restrictions.

African Cup organizers have made it mandatory for fans to present negative virus tests and proof that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend games.

But many fans did not have tickets or did not meet the COVID-19 screening criteria and therefore forced them in, Combi said. Local TV stations have broadcast footage of fans climbing security fences at the time of the crush.

“I won’t be able to tell you the results of the investigation ordered by Cameroonian President Paul Biya, but the massive and late arrival of supporters and spectators at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde caused a crush,” Kombi said.

In addition, the fans arrived late because they were watching the earlier match on TV, Combi said.

Officials have yet to explain why security officials directed fans to the gate that was closed, as claimed by witnesses and which contributed to the crush. Or why security was so inadequate and so easily overwhelmed.

Kombi is also the chairman of Cameroon’s local organizing committee for the tournament.

He added that the increased security for Cameroon’s game against the Gambia in the commercial capital Douala on Saturday was “to prevent uncivilized behavior by Cameroonians, forcing themselves into the stadium without having an entry ticket and negative COVID-19 test results.” want.”

Combi said organizers would no longer allow children under the age of 11 to participate in the Games after several children in Olembe were caught in a crush.

The Confederation of African Football, which runs the African Cup with local organisers, has moved one of the quarter-finals away from Olembe Stadium as a result of the crush. CAF President Patrice Motsepe said Olembe would also not host the semi-finals and final on 6 February unless Cameroonian football authorities could guarantee that games would be safe.

The additional police presence at the Japoma Stadium in Douala for Saturday’s game was also in response to an incident at that stadium during a group game between Algeria and Ivory Coast, when around 40 fans stormed the ground at the end of the match. . Some fans caught the players and had to drag them.

Cameroonian Police Chief Martin Mbarga Nguel said he personally oversaw security preparations for Cameroon’s quarter-finals.

The Central African nation of Cameroon was to host the African Cup in 2019 but was pulled out of that year’s event by the CAF due to problems with stadium preparations. The CAF recently warned Cameroon a few months ago that the facilities and security plans at Olembe were inadequate and threatened to move the opening game away from the 60,000-seat arena, which would cost Cameroon $300 to build the African Cup. cost more than a million.


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