Following the deaths of 19 soccer fans at an Ivory Coast stadium (originally reported as 22 dead), people are asking: what happened? What’s known is that there was a stampede to get inside the stadium before the start of a World Cup qualifying match against Malawi. What’s less certain is who’s to blame.
Some say spectators without tickets tried to force their way into the stadium. Others say the fatal crush began when police officers and football federation officials began letting in those fans without tickets in exchange for bribes. That, in turn, angered fans with tickets.
FIFA has requested a full inquiry. Ivorian players, meanwhile, are using the tragedy as a rallying point, and organizers of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa are busy assuring everyone that such disorder isn’t possible at their venues.
With World Cup qualifiers going on around the globe, the hooligans are out in full force. Some dispatches …
Ivory Coast vs. Malawi:
A stampede at a soccer match in the Ivory Coast killed at least 22 people and wounded 132 yesterday, authorities said. Fans at the Felix Houphouet-Boig-ny arena pushed against each other shortly before the World Cup qualifying game between Ivory Coast and Malawi, setting off a panic that led to the stampede, Interior Minister Desire Tagro said on state TV. “They started pushing to get in because the match was about to start and each and every one of them wanted to get in,” Tagro said.
Northern Ireland vs. Poland:
Before the game, riot police had to separate NI and Polish fans.
Fireworks, bricks and bottles were thrown between the two sets of fans outside the football ground …
Residents in the area were advised by police to stay indoors.
During the game play was suspended for five minutes after a linesman was hit on the head with a small object thrown from the crowd.
The Polish fans were kept inside the ground for nearly an hour after the match ended but have now left without incident.
From the Greek premier league:
Around 60 fans clashed with police inside the Olympic stadium in Athens on Sunday and police said they had used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Police said they had also clashed with dozens of fans outside the stadium, where AEK Athens were hosting Levadiakos in the Greek top league.
As mentioned below and elsewhere in Spolitical, South Africa’s snubbing of the Dalai Lama has opened up the 2010 World Cup hosts to much criticism. Now, mere days after denying an entry visa to the (generally) beloved Tibetan spiritual leader, South Africa has decided to bestow a lofty state honor–one previously given to MLK and Gandhi–upon … Fidel Castro.
SA’s decision to marginalize the Dalai Lama is wrong in the moral sense, but from the standpoint of realpolitic I can understand not wanting to anger a major trading partner like China–particularly at a time when Africa is losing Chinese investments. But to follow that up by paying homage to Castro? Inexplicable.
Given how bumpy the road to the World Cup has already been, one must wonder whether SA’s forthcoming bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics took a serious hit in recent days.
South Africa, because of its decision to deny a visa to the Dalai Lama, will no longer be hosting the peace conference in question. South Africa will, however, play host to the cricket tournament that India lost because of security concerns. Whether this is a net win for South Africa depends on whether you have a greater fondness for cricketers or Nobel laureates.
South Africa has raised eyebrows and hackles by refusing to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama. In all likelihood, they did so to appease China. China is a major trading partner, and last year the African National Congress signed a memorandum of understanding with the communist behemoth. Suffice it say, “understanding” China means appreciating how much they loathe Tibet’s spiritual leader. Of course, South Africa won’t admit to this. Instead, they’re invoking their status as host of the 2010 World Cup:
Spokesman for the South Africa president told reporters, “at this time the whole world will be focused on the country as hosts of the 2010 World Cup. We want the focus to remain on South Africa… A visit now by the Dalai Lama would move the focus from South Africa onto issues in Tibet.”
Last year, South Africa imperiled that host status by enabling Robert Mugabe, and now one must wonder whether FIFA is regretting its decision.
In the wake of Robert Mugabe’s “victory” in the Zimbabwean presidential election, the ICC may move to ban that nation’s cricket team from international competitions. Now that Mugabe has been sworn in, the pressure to take action against Zimbabwe will only grow. And grow it should.
In the process of stealing the election, Mugabe’s henchmen murdered at least 85 opposition supporters, while countless others were assaulted or displaced. The U.N. Security Council has already condemned the tactics (and the election), and it’s appropriate that every other pressure be brought to bear upon Mugabe. If that means punishing Zimbabwean athletes for the political order back home, then so be it.
Though less likely, a late-hour ban from the IOC is also justified. There’s precedent, of course, as Apartheid-era South Africa was banned from Olympic competition for close to three decades. On the other hand, the IOC’s ability to make a credible stand for human rights is undermined by, you know, allowing China to host. Yet the IOC shouldn’t worry itself with the hobgoblin of little minds; instead, it should take the bold step of barring Zimbabwe’s Olympians until Mugabe is deposed.
As you know, the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be held in South Africa. Given the political sensitivity surrounding global sporting events these days, FIFA had to be worried about the recent behavior of South African president Thabo Mbeki. To the puzzlement of many, Mbeki refused to use his substantial influence on the continent to put pressure on Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. (Mugabe, in the midst of a hotly fought presidential run-off, has used his goon squads to intimidate supporters of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.)
However, it appears that Mbeki, whether out of political sensitivity or a sense of compunction, is going to reject the results of the presidential run-off. This is good news for FIFA.
If Mbeki had failed to speak out against Mugabe’s thuggish and undemocratic tactics, then South Africa would have been held up for ridicule. As a consequence, the 2010 World Cup would’ve been marred by protests, particularly if things in Zimbabwe worsened under Mugabe’s illegitimate rule (a safe assumption). Certainly it wouldn’t have risen to the level of unrest we’ll see in Beijing, but even spare fractions of that would’ve drawn international attention to South Africa and led to unwelcome scrutiny of FIFA’s choice in venues. Fortunately for world soccer and much more fortunately for the innocents in Zimbabwe, Mbeki appears poised to meet his obligations, however belatedly.