“How my friend died in the Cameroon Afcon stampede”

JOSIANE KOUAGHEU

HIGH school teacher Vanessa Tchouanzi had come to see the match on Monday night with her friend, Veronique, who was also a teacher. Tchouanzi was barely able to get her words out as she recounted her experience over the phone to Reuters.

At the entrance to the 60 000-seater Paul Biya Stadium in Yaounde, in the Cameroon capital, crowds were still milling about just moments before the start of the last 16 Cameroon-Comoros game. Some were waiting to take COVID-19 tests.

As Tchouanzi tried to enter the stadium, ticket collectors became overwhelmed by a rush of people trying to get into the ground before kick-off.

“They shoved the gate and people started coming in in droves. The police were there, but the mass of people was stronger,” Tchouanzi said.

Tchouanzi and Veronique were knocked to the ground. Squeezed by the rush, Tchouanzi lost consciousness before someone pulled her up and away from the crowd.

A few minutes later, Tchouanzi found Veronique on the ground, unresponsive with a weak pulse. She was rushed to hospital but died soon after. 

“She couldn’t take the shock, the weight of all those people,” Tchouanzi said through a flood of tears.

Veronique was one of the eight soccer fans who lost their lives in an incident in which 38 others were injured.

The Confederation of African Football is to meet with the local organizing committee to understand the circumstances which led to the stampede.

Cameroon beat 10-man Comoros 1-0.

Images shared on social media, which Reuters could not immediately authenticate, showed a panicked crowd trying to squeeze through a narrow entrance gate at the newly built Olembe stadium in Yaounde that was hosting a round of 16 game between Cameroon and Comoros.

One video showed dozens of fans scrambling over the stadium fence as a police officer walked by.

The stampede comes as a heavy blow for the tournament, which had grown in excitement on the pitch in recent days thanks to some match upsets but which was under scrutiny for a lack of readiness beforehand.

COVID-19 and insecurity caused by a separatist insurgency also complicated preparations. – Thomson Reuters Foundation.

FACTBOX

Here is a look at some of the major disasters in soccer stadiums over the last 40 years:

October 1982, Russia

Fans were crushed as they left a UEFA Cup tie between Spartak Moscow and Dutch side HFC Haarlem at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

Officials from the former Soviet Union did not disclose the tragedy for years. When they did, they gave an official death toll of 66 although the number who died in a crush at one exit could have been as high as 340.

May 1985, Britain

At least 56 people were killed and more than 200 injured when fire broke out in the stands at the Valley Parade stadium in Bradford during a third division match against Lincoln City.

May 1985, Belgium

Thirty-nine fans died and more than 600 were injured in fan violence before the European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels.

March 1988, Nepal

A stampede towards locked exits in a hailstorm at Nepal’s national soccer stadium in Kathmandu killed more than 90 fans.

April 1989, Britain



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