Eight dead after stampede outside Cameroon soccerstadium


Image courtesy of Sky Sports

   At least eight people have been confirmed dead after a crush outside of Olembe Stadium in Cameroon. 38 people have also been reported as injured following the stampede, which occurred as a result of fans trying to enter the stadium to see Cameroon face off against Comoros in an Africa Cup of Nations Tournament elimination game.

   In attempts to enter the stadium, fans were seen pushing past security and jumping over fences. Many of these fans did not have a ticket to enter, but because of the importance of the game, fans chose to try their luck and sneak their way in. Despite the stadium’s limit on fans to 40,000 spectators because of COVID-19 protocols, almost 57,000 fans were inside the stadium, according to the Cameroonian government. 

   The accident occurred as a result of too many people trying to enter the stadium’s south gate, leading to a surge of people trying to enter the stadium at once. A closed gate at the stadium’s entrance prevented many fans from entering and is being blamed by organizers for the bottleneck that occurred at the south entrance. “If [the gate] was open, [spectators] would have walked through and it was closed for inexplicable reasons,” said the president of the Confederation of African Football Patrice Motsepe. As investigations continue, officials have not yet found an individual suspect. “I have given the local organizing committee … up to Friday to tell me who was responsible for the accident,” Motsepe continued.

   Even before the tragic events of January 24th, Olembe Stadium has had a troubled history. Cameroon was scheduled to host the 2019 Cup of Nations, however concerns due to lack of preparation, the tournament was relocated to Egypt. Concerns about the stadium continued to be raised up until the tournament began on January 9th. “The work is much, even in more than a year we will not be able to finish the work,” said building engineer Luc Eloundou just weeks before the tournament kicked off. Ignoring projections that the stadium would not be ready in time, tournament organizers such as Motsepe pressed on with adamant statements that there were no problems with stadium construction. “My message to Africa and the world is that the people of Cameroon are ready to show the world the best of African football and also to showcase the best of African hospitality,” he said during a late-stage visit to the stadium. 

   Even after the fatal stampede, Olembe Stadium will still host the tournament semifinals match between Cameroon and Egypt. The suspension of games, which forced a quarterfinal match to be moved, was lifted by the CAF to allow these games to happen. In order to ensure the safety of fans at upcoming matches at Olembe Stadium, “significantly increased security and resources,” have been implemented, according to a statement released by the CAF. The African Cup of Nations final will take place on February 6th at Olembe Stadium.