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BBC Sport's Mark Gleeson
"Questions must be asked about Africa's ability to host a big event like the World Cup"
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Ghanian international Adebi Pele
"We need to look at our stadia and policing"
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banner Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Disasters cast World Cup shadow
Ellis Park tragedy
Spectator casualties have been high in Africa
By Mark Gleeson

As Africa faced up to yet another soccer stadium disaster on Thursday, a shadow hung over the continent's ability to stage a World Cup finals.

Africa expects to have its right to stage the World Cup in 2010 ratified by the game's governing body Fifa at a congress in Buenos Aires in July.

Close to 200 spectators have died in tragedies at matches in Africa over the last 12 months, most of them in stampedes caused by police firing tear gas to quell rioting crowds.

Close to 200 spectators have died in tragedies at matches in Africa over the last 12 months
  Mark Gleeson
At least 126 were killed in a stampede in Ghana on Wednesday after rioting by fans of Asante Kotoko, whose team had gone 2-1 behind in a league match against champions Hearts of Oak.

It is Africa's worst sporting tragedy and comes just weeks after 43 people died in South Africa and another 14 were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo in other stadium disasters.

Tear gas fears

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) urged Ghana's football authorities on Thursday to avoid the indiscriminate firing of tear gas in stadiums.

"We extend our sincerest condolences to the families of the victims and to the entire Ghanaian football family," CAF said in a statement in Cairo.

victims laid out
Victims are laid out in Accra
"We are convinced that together with your governmental and security authorities you will find the way and means to prevent such tragic accidents in the future by avoiding the firing of uncontrolled tear gas."

CAF president Issa Hayatou was among those who had to flee at last year's African Champions League final between Hearts of Oak and Esperance of Tunisia in Accra when a stray canister landed in the VIP box as police fired tear gas at rioting fans.

The Ghanaian Football Association were fined $5,000 for that incident and Hearts banned from playing matches in continental club competitions at Accra's national stadium for a year. But the ban did not affect their domestic matches.

Stampede in Zimbabwe

Last July, 13 people were killed in a stampede when police deliberately fired tear gas at stadium exits in Harare during the World Cup qualifier between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

On top of these incidents, there have also been serious riots in Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa in the last year, where deaths have been narrowly averted.

Indiscriminate firing of tear gas by police to quell rioting supporters is commonplace in African soccer, where stewarding and other security measures are almost non-existent.

zimbabwe stampede
The aftermath of the stampede in Zimbabwe which left 13 dead
An inquest into the tragedy in Zimbabwe last July found the police action to blame for the 13 deaths but there have been no prosecutions of suspended police officers.

Last month Fifa president Sepp Blatter appeared to end any lingering doubts that the 2010 finals would be held in Africa when he declared in Addis Ababa: "Africa will definitely host the 2010 World Cup."

Ellis Park crush

Statements from Fifa officials on Thursday have also backed up the view that Africa's chances have not been affected.

South Africa controversially missed out on winning the right to stage the 2006 finals when the executive board of FIFA voted 12-11 in favour of Germany.

South Africa and Morocco have already said they intend to bid for the 2010 finals.

The deaths at Johannesburg's Ellis Park last month were caused by a crush as an estimated crowd of 75,000 sought to gain access to the 60,000-capacity stadium to watch a top of the table league clash between the country's two most popular clubs, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.

Despite the tragedies, there have been no moves by African football leaders to ban police from firing tear gas or set up guidelines for better stadium safety.

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