At least two people have been killed and many others injured in a stampede during a qualifier game for the January 2024 Africa Cup of Nations in Cotonou, Benin.
The tragedy happened on Saturday as Benin’s Cheetahs and Senegal’s Teranga Lions were about to compete at the Stade du General Mathieu Kerekou, local media and French broadcaster RFI reported.
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Minutes before the kickoff, public attention shifted from the football players to the stadium’s stands due to an inrush of fans. Those at the entrance tried to force their way in, causing a stampede as they collided with those who had just entered, a witness told Sport Africa News.
“People were dropping like flies. Many were trampled, asphyxiated and some stuck to the railings,” another witness told the sports news agency. “I saw people come in en masse. When the scene started, the stewards downstairs, instead of warning their colleagues outside to close the door, were there advising people to go next door while they were trapped.”
On Sunday, Benin’s sports minister gathered all parties involved with the event, from organisers to security officers, to understand what caused the deadly incident, RFI reported.
For all matches of the country’s national team, access is free but a pass is required to enter through the venue’s gates.
According to Sport Africa News, the Beninese government announced 48 hours before the event that people could collect their tickets from nine distribution points which were eventually overwhelmed.
The game ended in a 1-1 draw after a 78th-minute goal from Benin’s Abdoul Rachid Mumuini cancelled out the opener from Senegalese defender Abdoulaye Seck in the first half.