Eight people have died following a crush at the Olembe Stadium as the venue hosted the Africa Cup of Nations match between Cameroon and Comoros last night, with Sunday’s scheduled quarter-final moved away from the venue as investigations continue into the incident.
The 60,000-seat stadium is in Yaoundé, the capital of AFCON host country Cameroon. A local government official confirmed last night that six people had died following a crush outside the stadium, and the death toll this morning increased to eight.
The circumstances of the incident, which also left 38 people injured, remain unclear. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) confirmed that it was investigating the situation and trying to get more details on what transpired.
The Associated Press news agency, citing witnesses at the stadium, reported that the crush occurred when stewards at the stadium closed gates and prevented fans from entering.
CAF confirmed that it had sent its general secretary, Veron Mosengo-Omba, to visit injured supporters at a Yaoundé hospital.
Olembe Stadium seats 60,000 fans, but the venue was only operating at 80% capacity following restrictions outlined by CAF earlier this month.
The 80% capacity limit only applies to matches featuring host nation Cameroon, with the rest of the games capped at 60% capacity.
Cameroon went on to claim a 2-1 victory over Comoros to progress to the quarter-finals.
CAF today (Tuesday) announced that Sunday’s AFCON quarter-final, originally intended to be played at Olembe Stadium, will now be staged at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium, also in Yaoundé. Having hosted the opening game of the tournament, Olembe Stadium is also due to stage a semi-final, plus the final itself on February 6.
Speaking today, CAF president Patrice Motsepe said the governing body, along with the local organising committee and the Cameroonian government, must take responsibility for the tragic incident.
“We have a duty to find out exactly what happened and more importantly to put in preventative measures to ensure that what happened never happens again,” he said, according to the BBC.
“There were deficiencies, weaknesses, failures, things that should have been foreseen. When people lose their lives you must be angry and demand explanations and guarantees that it will never happen again.”
The 2021 AFCON was switched to January 2022 back in July 2020 due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
CAF said the event – which had already been moved from July to January of 2021 – would be shifted back a year because of postponements in the qualification campaign. The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations had originally been scheduled for June-July 2021, but earlier in 2020 it was decided to switch the 24-team tournament to January to avoid Cameroon’s rainy season.