On pitch,a game of death

Football riots that claimed 74,after Al-Masry’s upset win,is not the first or the most deadly

Written by Reuters | London | Published:February 3, 2012 12:23 am

Mike Collett

In terms of global visibility,there could hardly be a greater contrast between Wednesday’s disaster in Egypt,which claimed the lives of at least 74 people and the world’s worst recorded stadium disaster,in which 340 people died in Moscow in 1982.

Video footage of the riot in Port Said between fans of the home side Al-Masry and Egypt’s most successful team Al-Ahly was seen by millions around the world on the internet within minutes of it unfolding. The violence occurred as fans invaded the pitch after Port Said club Al-Masry registered an upset 3-1 victory against the 36-time Egyptian champions Al-Ahly.

Al-Masry supporters,armed with knives,sticks and stones,chased players and fans from the rival team,Al-Ahly,who ran toward the exits and up the stands to escape,according to witnesses.

The two teams,Al-Masry and Al-Ahly,have a history of fierce rivalry. Witnesses said fighting began after AL-Ahly fans unfurled banners insulting Port Said and one descended to the pitch carrying an iron bar at the end of the match.

The disaster in Moscow was covered up for seven years by the Soviet authorities who originally said 66 people died but later admitted — in July 1989 — that 340 people had lost their lives on October 20,1982,when Moscow Spartak played Harlem of the Netherlands in a UEFA Cup match at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Those fans died after Spartak scored a late goal and fans leaving the stadium were crushed on an open stairway and in a corridor when departing spectators surged back into the stadium only to be met by fans leaving the ground. That was also found to be the main cause of the Ibrox Stadium disaster in Glasgow on January 2,1971,when 66 people were trampled to death at the end of a match between fierce Scottish rivals Rangers and Celtic.

Departing fans turned back to the stadium after hearing the roar of a late goal,causing dozens of people to tumble over those climbing up the stairs and sending them all to their deaths.

Other disasters

Until the Moscow disaster of 1982 was revealed,the world’s worst stadium disaster was recorded as taking place in Lima,Peru in 1964 when 318 fans died and hundreds more were injured after a goal was disallowed in an Olympic qualifier between Peru and Argentina. Fans rioted,soldiers fired tear-gas,chaos reigned and hundreds died.

There have been other significant death tallies after riots in Nepal’s national stadium in 1988 when over 100 died,in South Africa in 1991 when 43 people were killed at a Kaizer Chiefs-Orlando Pirates match and in February 1974 in Egypt when 49 fans were killed trying to gain access to see Zamalek play Dulkla Prague of the former Czechoslovakia. Africa’s worst tragedy before Wednesday’s occurred in May 2001 when around 126 people were killed in a stampede in the Ghanaian capital of Accra.

Improving stadiums

Three serious tragedies had a massive impact on safety at European stadiums in the 1980s. Saftey and security were generally tightened everywhere following the Bradford City fire in England in 1985 which claimed 56 lives,the Heysel Stadium disaster two weeks later in which 39 died and the Hillsborough disaster in England in 1989 when 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at an FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield when Liverpool played Nottingham Forest.

Ironically,Wednesday’s incident in Egypt comes two days after the French FA said that no matches would be played on May 5 this year to mark the 20th anniversary of the disaster in Corsica in 1992,when 18 fans were killed at a French Cup semi-final between Bastia and Marseille when a temporary stand collapsed. Those kind of stands would not be allowed at a major match today.

UEFA,European soccer’s governing body,recently issued a guide to quality stadiums “Stadium design in Europe is already of a very high standard and a number of excellent quality venues have been developed. Everything we can do at UEFA to help support,nurture and encourage good and conscientious stadium design and building will be of enormous benefit to football and local communities,” UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said.

The Stadium in Port Said,a multi-use 18,000 all-seater venue,was built in 1955 and more than met FIFA’s standards after modern improvements and hosted matches in the 2006 African Cup of Nations and the World Under-20 Cup in 2009.

Worst stadium disasters in soccer

Peru,May 1964

More than 300 fans died and 500 were injured in a riot during an Olympic qualifying match in Lima.

Britain,January 1971

Sixty-six people died in a crush at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow while leaving a match between archrivals Rangers and Celtic.

Russia,October 1982

Fans were crushed as they left a UEFA Cup tie between Moscow Spartak and Dutch side HFC Haarlem at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow. Officials from the former Soviet Union hid the tragedy for years. They finally gave an official death toll of 66,before admitting 340 lives were lost.

Britain,May 1985

At least 56 people were killed and more than 200 injured when fire broke out in the stands at Bradford.

Belgium,May 1985

Thirty-nine fans,mostly Italians,died in rioting before the European Cup Final between Italian club Juventus and English club Liverpool at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels.

Nepal,March 1988

A stampede towards locked exits in a hailstorm at the stadium in Kathmandu killed more than 90 fans.

Britain,April 1989

Ninety-six people were killed and more than 200 were injured after a crowd surge crushed packed fans against barriers at the English FA Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough Stadium.

Guatemala,October 1996

Up to 82 people died when an avalanche of fans tumbled down the seats and stairs at a World Cup qualifying match between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City.

South Africa,April 2001

At least 43 people were crushed to death when fans tried to force their way into Johannesburg’s huge Ellis Park stadium during a top South African league match.

Ghana,May 2001

Around 126 people were killed in a stampede at Accra’s main stadium when police fired teargas at rioting fans.

Egypt,February 2012

Fans rioted at the end of a match in Port Said when the local team al-Masry beat Al Ahly,one of Egypt’s most successful clubs. At least 74 people were killed and more than 1,000 people injured.

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