The main international men’s association football tournament has been marked by a devastating stampede as the host nation of Cameroon played a knockout game against Comoros last night.
Tragedy has struck the African Cup of Nations late last night as at least eight people have been killed and another fifty injured during a stampede in the Cameroonian capital of Yaoundé, casting a pall over the football tournament, which the West African nation is hosting for the first time in 50 years.
“CAF is currently investigating the situation and trying to get more details on what transpired. We are in constant communication with Cameroon government and the Local Organizing Committee” said the Confederation of African Football (CAF), which manages the African Cup of Nations, in a statement. CAF General-Secretary Veron Mosengo-Omba was expected to visit the injured in hospital late last night.
The incident took place as fans attempted to access the Olembe Stadium in Yaoundé to watch the match between Comoros and Cameroon, with witnesses reporting that the stampede began when officials closed the gates and stopped allowing further people to gain entry. Images from the evening show many injured laying on the ground outside of the stadium, with one man appearing to attempt to resuscitate a victim.
Olembe Stadium’s capacity had been previously limited to 60% of its total of 60 000 persons due to coronavirus concerns, but was raised to 80% in the runup to the highly anticipated match. Local soccer officials are reported to have said that some 50 000 people attempted to attend the game, which may have contributed to the incident. The stadium is scheduled to host three more games of the tournament, including the final on 6 February.
The stampede is the second tragedy to hit the capital of Yaoundé in days, after a fire at a nightclub left 17 people dead over the weekend.