Soccer officials in South Africa have promised urgent action following a stampede at an international friendly in Tembisa on Sunday afternoon.
Sixteen fans were injured after crowd trouble at the Makulong Stadium, where Nigeria faced North Korea in a World Cup warm-up match.
A mass crowd gathered outside the grounds of the Makulong Stadium near Johannesburg and forced the gates open before embarking on a mad scramble to gain entrance.
Shield-wielding police tried to stop the surge and ended up creating a bottle-neck that left tens of people under hundreds of unrelenting feet.
With only four days away from the World Cup the incident has raised a number of eyebrows concerning the safety of fans. But, Fifa was quick to distance itself from the embarrassing incident.
It said in a short statement, “FIFA would like to reiterate that this friendly match has no relation whatsoever with the operational organisation of the 2010 World Cup, for which we remain fully confident. Contrary to some media reports, FIFA had nothing to do with the ticketing of this game,”
The embarrassing incident marred a day when more fans and teams flew in to South Africa for the month long football tournament, the world’s most watched sporting event.
Television footage shows hundreds of people attempting to squeeze into a 10 000 seater stadium after the organizes of the game gave away free tickets with reports saying the free tickets for the match exceeded the stadium’s capacity.
The locality of the stadium is home to hundreds of Nigerians who hoped to catch of glimpse of their heroes. There were no reports of injured players.
The incident happened a few hours after President Zuma had told local and international media that his country was ready to host the 2010 World Cup.
“For us the World Cup has already begun,” he said. “It is now all systems go. Well done South Africa, well done Fifa, well done to the world. Let the games begin on Friday.”
“We are truly pleased and humbled to host the world in our country for this historical and extraordinary event,” Zuma said while flanked by FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
South Africa’s worse soccer incident was in 1991 where 40 people were killed and 50 others injured at an exhibition soccer match between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. The bloody violence was triggered after fans objected to a referee’s decision.