Writtenby Adokiye Amiesimaka - Nigeria.
Football aka soccer is internationally acclaimed as the beautiful game, the king of sport, with the largest and widest fan base all over the world. In Nigeria, it is even credited with having the greatest unifying potential. Since it became an international sport over a hundred years ago more passionate fans have been attracted to football stadiums to savour the game’s delightful experience on a weekly basis than to any other sport event. Tragically, there have been too many ‘spectator incidents’ from every part of the world that have been the antithesis of joy.
While football’s most famous quote attributed to Bill Shankly (Liverpool FC Manager, 1959-1974) – “Football is not a matter of life and death … it’s much more important than that” may have been edited down and interpreted out of context, the fact remains that no other sport has had more venue tragedies than football.
Over the years, several factors like hooliganism, poor stadium construction, inefficient entry and exit protocol, unprofessional law enforcement response, etc. have been responsible for turning many stadiums into arenas of death and destruction.
Chris Valentine has done well to document many of such unpleasant events, but let me highlight the most devastating ones among them.
At the National Stadium, Katmandu, Nepal, on March 12, 1988, at least 93 people were killed and 100 more were injured when fans attempted to flee from a hailstorm inside the stadium. Ice pellets rained down on the 30,000 fans watching a match between Nepalese and Bangladeshi teams. Witnesses said screaming spectators rushed to the stadium’s eight exits but found only one open. Police and hospital sources in the city confirmed more than 70 people, including two police officers, were trampled to death or suffocated. Government television reported 73 persons were killed, and witnesses said 20 other bodies were later retrieved by relatives.