22 Killed In Ivory Coast Soccer Stadium Tragedy

There’s been plenty of worrying (and rightly so) over whether South Africa would be ready to host the 2010 World Cup, what with the fact that corruption is running rampant and multiple stadiums aren’t even near completion. It turns out, unfortunately, that the stadium problems in Africa have already started.

Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium
(The scene of a tragedy.)

That’s Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium, located in Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast (a small west African nation). Spurred by discounted tickets and the chance to see native superstar Didier Drogba, hordes of fans rushed the stadium to watch a World Cup qualifying match between Ivory Coast and Malawi. Though the stadium was recently refurbished, a wall collapsed under the weight of thousands of fans, sparking a panicked stampede, and now 19 are feared dead (UPDATE: SKY NEWS has raised the total amount of fatalities to 22).

There are several particularly unfortunate details of the incident, even more unfortunate than “22 people just died” usually entails. First of all, this type of incident was, if not expected, per se, worried about beforehand. To that end:

FIFA instigated a programme of stadium inspections across Africa before the 2010 World Cup qualifiers and Abidjan’s Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium was passed as safe for international matches.

About that… no.

The second is the behavior of police during the incident. Rather than trying to restore order, once the wall collapsed, police began firing tear gas into the crowd, causing a stampede that injured, if not killed, many more fans. Granted, there aren’t many options left once you get to the point where barriers are collapsing under the weight of a crowd and panic sets in, but still. The BBC’s report that “poorly-equipped security forces are often unable to control the crowds” seems to be an exercise in understatment here.

And the final unfortunate detail was the the unusual decision to let the match go on as scheduled, even as fans searched desperately for relatives, hoping they were still, you know, alive. In “other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” news, Ivory Coast crushed Malawi, 5-0, as Drogba scored two goals. So, y’know, there’s that.