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Re stampede at Nigeria vs. N. Korea friendly

By: Ome Dede
 Published June10th, 2010

I just knew that Nigerians would in some way be made the fall guys for Sunday’s stampede at the Makulong stadium in Tembisa where the Super Eagles played a friendly with their North Korean counterparts. I am responding particularly to Monday’s front page reports in The Citizen newspaper which tended to blame the pandemonium on an alleged attempt by Nigerian fans to enter the venue without tickets. I was there, and I am totally scandalized by the role played by the hordes of policemen who were on ground at the stadium. It is also a shame for any report to gloss over the real issue - negligence and inefficiency exhibited by the cops. (The reporter has also not got his facts right: fans were issued with free gate-passes, not tickets!)

I started smelling trouble when, at about 3.00pm, I and other fans noticed that the long orderly queue of gate-pass holders had stopped moving. We were standing less than ten meters from the only entrance being used, and we observed that NO attempt was being made by the cops to ensure orderly entry into the venue and the maintenance of the queue itself. At this time, the situation was still very much manageable and a group of female church ushers could easily have got things working again. Much to our surprise and dismay, the cops (who kept arriving in droves) merely strolled past the patient fans, went inside the stadium and stood with hands in their pockets like by-standers. As the kick-off time approached, some patient fans started becoming restive and apprehensive. Before long, the queue started disintegrating with crowds beginning to form around the ONLY entrance being used. Even at this point, the situation was not yet out of hand and one could still make out the queue.

Shortly, however, one or two cops feigned a charge at the growing crowd and sprayed something from an aerosol can. At the same time, the gate was suddenly thrown open without regard to those who were on the line. This was what sparked pandemonium. Anyone can imagine the situation. Some fans were thrown into panic and started scampering for safety, while some others took advantage of lack of control and surged into the venue. In a way, the latter did the wiser and more practical thing, because going forward presented the lesser danger of harm. Personally, I only missed being squashed against barbed wires by about a foot. That no death was recorded is indeed miraculous.

I cannot find any excuse for the lackadaisical attitude displayed by the scores of armed policemen on ground, and there is absolutely no justification for the questionable attempt of the reporter of The Citizen to brand the fans as unruly. On the contrary, they were actually generally as well-behaved as soccer fans can be anywhere in the world. Many even came along with their children. If blame must be cast, it should be cast where it is due. Why was only one entrance used, for instance? Can the cops say they didn’t expect a large turn-out for such a ‘free-to-view’ game, given the current World Cup fever? The simple, even if embarrassing cause of the mayhem was the failure of a group of cops at elementary crowd-control. A team of boy scouts would most probably have handled the situation better.

Ome Dede ( )

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