Sports minister blames Cameroon stadium tragedy on ticketless fans after eight killed at AFCON match

·2-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

A “massive” influx of ticketless fans attempting to force their way through security checks was the cause of a stadium crush that killed eight people at the Africa Cup of Nations, a Cameroon government minister has claimed.

An investigation is underway after the tragedy at Olembe Stadium in the nation’s capital of Yaounde on Monday. A further 38 were injured before Cameroon’s game against Comoros, seven of them seriously.

It had previously been stated that a shut access gate was responsible for the incident, which has prompted an extra 250 police officers to be deployed for Saturday’s quarter-final between the hosts and Gambia.

Cameroon Sports Minister Narcisse Mouelle Kombi said at a news conference on Friday that the full results of a government investigation were not yet available. However he revealed that close to 60,000 fans tried to get into the game, when the crowd was meant to be capped at a maximum of 48,000 due to Covid-19 restrictions.

AFCON organisers have made it compulsory for fans to present negative virus tests and proof they are vaccinated against Covid to attend games. But many fans didn't have tickets or meet the screening criteria and so forced their way in, Kombi said.

“I will not be able to give you the results of investigations ordered by Cameroon president Paul Biya but the massive and late influx of supporters and spectators at Yaounde's Olembe stadium caused the crush,” he stated.

Authorities haven’t yet explained why security officials directed fans toward a gate that was locked, as witnesses have claimed and which contributed to the crush. Or why security was so inadequate and so easily overwhelmed.

Local TV stations have broadcast footage of fans climbing over security fences at the time of the crush. Some fans had even arrived late because they had been watching an earlier match on TV, it was claimed.

Kombi, who is also the president of Cameroon's local organising committee for the tournament, said the increased security for Cameroon's game against Gambia in the commercial capital Douala on Saturday was “to stop the uncivil behavior of Cameroonians who want to force themselves into the stadium when they do not have entry tickets and negative Covid test results”.

Kombi said organisers would no longer allow children under the age of 11 to attend games after a number of children were caught up in the crush.

The Confederation of African Football, which runs the African Cup alongside local organisers, has taken one of the quarter-finals away from the Olembe Stadium as a result of the incident. CAF president Patrice Motsepe said the Olembe also will not host a semi-final and the final on February 6 unless Cameroon officials can guarantee that the games will be safe.

Additional reporting by AP Sports.

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