Football match goes ahead after eight die in fan stampede
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Eight people were killed and dozens more injured when a football crowd stampeded in Malawi on Thursday.
The Nyasa Big Bullets were due to take on the Silver Strikers but a prolonged delay led to the crowd attempting to force entry to the stadium. Police replied with tear gas and the resulting chaos led to multiple deaths and injuries.
Bizarrely the game went ahead despite fatalities, with the Nyasa Big Bullets winning 2-1 at Lilongwe’s Bingu national stadium.
The game was intended to mark the 53rd anniversary of Malawi’s independence from British colonial rule but quickly became a tragedy in its own right.
Lexan Kachama, Inspector General of the local police force, stated that he expects casualty numbers to rise.
Malawi’s President, Peter Mutharika, did not attend as he had originally planned to. He made a statement saying he was shocked at the news of the tragedy, but the fact the game went ahead regardless arguably leaves that statement ringing a little hollow.
The 40,000 capacity stadium was filled to the rafters when the game did finally get underway and the crowd cheered on their teams without the company of their President.
Events like this remind us of the importance of the correct logistical management and marshalling of football crowds. A crowd of such size can easily turn into a destructive force.
The fact that the game was played in spite of the deaths of eight people will surely leave a bitter taste in the mouths of their families, friends and communities. It’s a tragedy not just for Malawi but for the international footballing community, who thought incidents like this were becoming just a part of the sport’s tumultuous history.