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Monday, October 26, 1998 Published at 01:34 GMT

World: Africa

Footballers struck by lightning

Players from both teams dropped to the ground

One minute the 22 players were running around the pitch - the next half of them were on their backs on the turf.

Click here to watch the incident
Just as the ball reached the outside of one of the penalty areas, in front of 2,000 fans, a bolt of lightning struck the ground.

The referee at the Premier Soccer League match in Johannesburg seemed badly shocked and blew his whistle incessantly.

Several players writhed on the grass holding their ears and their eyes. Spectators and coaching staff ran onto the pitch to help

Jeremy Vine in South Africa: "The referee groped around, blowing his whistle"
One commentator interviewed a player lying on the ground, asking him: "It didn't hit you did it?"

The footballer responded: "It did just a little. I don't know if I'm OK."

Fortunately no-one was killed by the strike.

Accusations of cheating

Members of the team that were two goals down were accused of deliberately collapsing to get the match called off.

Our correspondent in South Africa, Jeremy Vine, says the claim is unfair.

"The combination of bright light and deafening noise was quite literally stunning," he said.

Both teams - Jomo Cosmos and the local team, Moroka Swallows - are now asking questions about why ambulances were not on stand-by during the match. Medical help took a while to arrive.

Several of them had to be carried off the field, and two were taken to hospital where they were treated for shock and irregular heart beats.

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