6 football fans die after clash at Africa Cup of Nations


Cameroonian soldiers patrol the entrance of Olembe Stadium ahead of the start of AFCON on January 7th. A crowd of fans at the Africa Cup of Nations left six dead and at least 40 injured. (Kenzo TriboulliardAFP via Getty Images)

A crowd of fans at an Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) football match on Monday left six dead and more than 40 injured, officials from host country Cameroon said.

The incident happened at the Olembe Stadium in the capital, Yaounde, as fans came to watch Cameroon play Comoros. Cameroon is hosting the biennial tournament for the first time in 50 years.

Some injured fans in ‘distressed state’

Naseri Paul Biya, governor of the central region of Cameroon, expects more victims. Nurse Olinga Prudence from Messassi Hospital, which cares for injured patients, described the scene.

“Some of the injured are in a desperate condition,” Prudence told reporters. “We need to evacuate her to a specialized hospital.”

Tournament officials told reporters that more than 50,000 people poured into the stadium, which was set to be capped at 48,000. Olembe Stadium normally holds 60,000 spectators but is limited to 80% due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Tournament organizers, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), released a statement on the incident.

“CAF is currently investigating the situation and trying to get more details about what happened,” the statement said. “We are in constant contact with the Cameroonian government and the local organizing committee.”

Previous field invasions led to tournament security reprimands

Thursday’s incident came days after about 40 fans invaded the pitch after an AFCON game between Ivory Coast and Algeria. Al Jazeera reports that fans in the stands that day appeared to be exceeding capacity limits set due to COVID-19 restrictions.

This January 20 incident occurred at Japoma Stadium in Douala, Cameroon. No injuries were reported, but CAF fined both teams in a statement on Monday and condemned the Cameroonian organizers for insufficient safety measures:

“In their report, match officials reported that at the end of the game, the pitch was ambushed by about 40 supporters, mainly from the east stand,” the CAF statement said. “The report found that the number of security officers was insufficient to control the excitement caused by an Algerian supporter invading the pitch.”

The CAF Disciplinary Board then issued a “warning to the Football Federation of Cameroon about the lack of security during the said match and a stern warning to strictly comply with safety regulations”.

According to the Associated Press, Cameroon was originally slated to host AFCON in 2019 but lost its bid to Egypt over fears that the country’s stadiums were unwilling to host the prestigious tournament.

Monday’s game continued despite the tragedy as Cameroon progressed to the quarter-finals of the tournament with a 2-1 win.

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