Page last updated at 14:42 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 15:42 UK

Fans blamed for Ivorian stampede


People came to the stadium without tickets

Ticketless football fans were behind Sunday's stampede that left 19 people dead in Ivory Coast, officials say.

The government is to hold an emergency meeting over the tragedy which left 132 people injured at the Houphouet-Boigny stadium in the biggest city, Abidjan.

However, some supporters have said security forces sparked the stampede when they fired tear gas at crowds.

Casualties were treated at the stadium as the World Cup qualifier went ahead and hosts Ivory Coast beat Malawi 5-0.

Ivory Coast Prime Minister Guillaume Soro is holding a crisis meeting on Monday with ministers and football officials to discuss the tragedy.


World football's governing body has asked for a full report into what caused the tragedy as it sent condolences to the victims.

Fifa President Sepp Blatter said: "I wish to express extreme sorrow and extend our condolences to the Ivorian football community and, most importantly, to family, friends and loved ones following the tragic deaths in Abidjan yesterday."

He told me he was going to support the Elephants, and he never came back
Lassana Toure
Bereaved father

Earlier reports said that 22 people had been killed.

The national football association had told those without the prized tickets to stay away from the stadium.

But thousands ignored the message hoping to see Ivory Coast's Europe-based football stars.

The big attraction was home-grown hero Didier Drogba, who is regarded almost as a demi-god by his countrymen, says BBC Ivory Coast correspondent John James.

The Chelsea striker - returning from injury - scored twice.

Our correspondent says it seems many fans were angry when the gates were shut.

A crowd of supporters without tickets were reportedly pushing and shoving 40 minutes before the start of the game.

Ivorian Sports Minister Dagobert Banzio said there seemed to be more people outside the 35,000-capacity stadium than inside.

"Some spectators who didn't have tickets tried to force their way in," he said.

"Unfortunately they broke down one of the big gates and in the stampede people were crushed."

Ivorian striker Didier Drogba celebrates a goal against Malawi on 29 March 2009
Didier Drogba was one of a number of Europe-based stars playing

But some fans blamed the police.

"The stampede was provoked by the security forces who threw tear gas canisters at us. I don't know why they fired on us," Diarassouba Adama told the AP news agency outside the morgue.

One bereaved relative, Lassana Toure, wept as he collected the body of his 17-year-old son, Aboubacar.

"He told me he was going to support the Elephants, and he never came back," Mr Toure told AFP news agency, referring to the national team.

Abandoned shoes scattered near a twisted entrance gate to the stadium were the only traces of the tragedy on Monday.

The arena has just been refurbished but our correspondent says at this stage it seems the sheer number of people who wanted to get into the match proved too much.

Other Europe-based stars playing in Sunday's game were Drogba's Chelsea team-mate Salomon Kalou, as well as Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue of Arsenal.


The home side also featured Tottenham's Didier Zokora, Sevilla's Ndri Romaric and Marseille forward Bakari Kone.

The tragedy in Abidjan is the second such incident during qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup in Africa.

In June 2008, at least eight people died in a crush in Liberia as spectators jostled to get into an already overcrowded stadium in Monrovia for the match between Liberia and The Gambia.

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