FIFA's conscience clear over stampede
FIFA says it is not to blame for a stampede that occurred outside a stadium in Johannesburg today where World Cup finalists Nigeria and North Korea were wrapping up their preparations for the competition.
The incident, which occurred in the township of Tembisa, east of the city, left several people injured - 14 spectators had to be taken to hospital, while two police officials were also hurt.
Less than a week remains before the kick-off of the global spectacle and the events at the Makhulong Stadium are likely to place further pressure on the world governing body, who have already moved to distance themselves from any involvement.
A statement from the organisation read: ‘FIFA and the Organising Committee (OC) of the 2010 FIFA World Cup have been informed by the South African Police Services (SAPS) about the incidents which have taken place today on the occasion of the friendly match between Nigeria and Korea DPR played in Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg.
‘FIFA and the OC would like to first wish a prompt recovery to those who have been affected by these incidents.
‘In addition, FIFA and the OC would like to reiterate that this friendly match has no relation whatsoever with the operational organisation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, for which we remain fully confident.
‘Contrary to some media reports, FIFA had nothing to do with the ticketing of this game.’
Tickets for the game at the 10,000 capacity ground were free, meaning there was a huge demand and additional pressure on authorities after a larger number of fans turned up.
Explaining what happened, the South African Police Services (SAPS) said in a statement: ‘The friendly match was arranged by a private company and tickets were apparently being handed out by the teams outside the stadium.
‘Initial reports from the stadium, which is not a 2010 FIFA World Cup stadium, indicate that 10 000 tickets were distributed outside the stadium but a number of fans wanted to enter the stadium without tickets.
‘It would seem that there was also some confusion among the crowd as to the ticketing system which led to disruptive behaviour on the part of the crowd.
‘Police members immediately started implementing crowd management measures but the crowd became unruly and pushed against the gates, forcing them open on two occasions.
‘One police official was seriously wounded when he was trampled by the crowd, one police official was slightly injured but remained on duty.
‘The police official (seriously wounded) is in a stable condition. The police did all in their power to prevent fatalities and minimise injuries.’
The game continued with Nigeria going on to win 3-1.
South Africa is just days away from the opening of the first ever World Cup on the African continent and earlier today its president Jacob Zuma and FIFA head Sepp Blatter gave their full backing towards the country's readiness to host the event.