By Frederic Tendeng
Eight people have been confirmed dead after a wall collapsed on hundreds of supporters at a league cup final at Estade Demba Diop in Dakar, Senegal.
It was a sunny Saturday and Dakar’s Demba-Diop Stadium was packed with spectators supporting US Ouakam and Stade de Mbour, in a highly charged league cup final.
At half time and after Stade de Mbour equalised to level the score (2-2), supporters of Ouakam began to throw stones at fans of Stade de Mbour and match officials on the pitch. The police began to fire tear gas hoping to stop the chaos.
Instead, it caused a sudden rush of spectators towards the few opened gates of the stadium. As the crowd continued rushing for an exit, police continued firing tear gas and using batons on supporters of Ouakam who were reaching out to those of Stade de Mbour.
As the exit doors became obstructed, waves of fans tried to scale a wall causing it to collapse on hundreds of supporters of both sides leading to people being crushed.
The President of the Senegalese soccer league, Saer Seck, expressed condolences to the families of the victims and defended the role of the security forces in the tragedy. “We took all precautions initially in separating the two groups of supporters to neutralise them. We hired agents of the security forces in their numbers, and now there were fights and a collapse,” said LSFP President Seck, who was quoted widely in most media.
But Seck’s assessment is not entirely shared by the Senegalese local media. From the various reactions after the tragedy, it appears that violence in sports was almost trivialized in all encounters. The police were also blamed for its systematic use of batons and tear gas, which often create massive human rush against obstacles like barriers and walls. The other criticism that went viral in Dakar radio stations is that political, religious and all sort of lobbyists have paralyzed decision making with regard to appropriate strategies to build good standard sporting infrastructures and curbing violence. Demba Diop Stadium is old, hastily and poorly refurbished two years ago with walls and buildings not meeting international standards.
Senegalese government’s spokesman Seydou Gueye, on Sunday, condemned the violence. He announced that the authorities have moved the injured to hospitals around Dakar and a thorough investigation will be opened into the incident. “A judicial inquiry will be opened to investigate the tragedy and determine who was responsible”, he said. The government also announced a ban on sports and cultural activities during the legislative election campaign period until the elections on July 30.
The immediate consequence of this ban is the postponement, until further notice, of the much awaited wrestling contest between Modou Lô and Lac de Guiers 2 that was initially scheduled to take place this Sunday, at the very stadium where the incident occurred on Saturday.