African Cup’s flagship stadium suspended after deadly stampede
The Olembe stadium, venue of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations, as well as main site of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, will no longer host games until further notice.
On Monday evening, a deadly stampede occurred outside the stadium named after President Paul Biya while fans scrambled to watch Cameroon’s Last 16 fixture against Comoros. Officials confirmed it killed eight and injured 38 persons.
“The next match that’s supposed to take place at Olembe should not take place,” declared African Confederation president Patrice Motsepe in front of a battery of reporters at the conference room of the Ahmadu Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde.
Looking wary and devasted, Motsepe expressed “deep condolences to the families” of victims on behalf of Caf and the Local Organising Committee (LOC).
Motsepe regretted the fact that more than the required number (40.000 spectators) showed up at the 60.000-seater structure to watch the highly contested match.
“I think that thousands of people more than what was expected did arrive.”
“I saw one lady and a good number of women this morning, she came with her small son, and two others came with very young children, and I am told some of the people came just to be part of the atmosphere, including those who didn’t have tickets.”
On what caused the incident, Motsepe explained that “the gate was supposed to be open but it was closed. If it was open, people would have walked through, but it was closed. Who closed it? It was closed for inexplicable reasons.”
“There is zero tolerance,” Motsepe stressed, “absolutely zero tolerance to circumstances resulting in people being injured at the stadium or people losing their lives.”
He said emergency and urgent steps would be taken at a crisis meeting on Wednesday 26 January.
“I need, and Caf needs a report on what happened, what should have happened, and the circumstances that led to people being injured and those who lost their lives.”
“There must be an immediate committee set up to find out what happened, who was supposed to do what and who did not perform their responsibilities. We want that report by Friday.”
Motsepe said there will be no game next Sunday at Olembe until “absolute measures have been taken to make sure remaining matches are played in an environment of primary focus on safety and health.”
Matches initially scheduled at Olembe have been moved to the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium still in political capital Yaounde.
At Wednesday’s meeting, proposals will be put to the organising committee for match number 47 (winner of Ivory Coast-Egypt versus winner of Morocco-Malawi) to be moved to Amadou Ahidjo stadium, and match number 48 (winner between Senegal and Cape Verde versus winner of Mali-Equatorial Guinea) moved to Limbe.