Football is the most popular sport in the world. Its history is however blotted by tragedies that have led to the deaths of both players and fans.
Most of the tragedies have been caused by human mistakes but some have also been blamed on natural causes.
In Africa, tragedies have struck both inside and outside the fields of play. Some of the worst tragedies to hit African football include;
Ghana Disaster – 2001
The tragedy struck on May 9, 2001 at the Accra Sports Stadium, now renamed Ohene Djan Stadium in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.
It led to the death of 126 fans in what turned out to be the worst soccer tragedy in the history of African football.
The violence was triggered after Hearts of Oak scored two goals towards the end of the match and led 2-1, which caused protests from fans of their bitter rivals, Asante Kotoko.
They turned rowdy and engaged in vandalism that led to a vicious confrontation with anti-riot police in the 40,000-seater stadium.
Port Said Stadium – Egypt (2012)
It occurred on February 1, 2012 after a match between El Masry and Al Ahly in the Egyptian league turned violent.
The violence led to the death 74 fans and at least 500 others injured.
After the game which El Masry won 3-1, its fans stormed the pitch, armed with knives, fireworks and other weapons.
They attacked Al Ahly fans who could not flee as some of the stadium’s gates were closed.
Most of the people who died were stabbed or clubbed to death, while others were thrown off from the stands.
Following the disaster, the national federation, Egyptian Football Federation (EFF) stopped the league for two years.
Ellis Park tragedy – South Africa (2001)
It happened on April 11, 2001 during the famous Soweto derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.
A stampede that was caused by thousands of fans trying to enter the stadium led to the death of 43 fans and left more than 158 injured.
The game was tied at 1-1 as the stampede ensued. It was abandoned in the 38th minute.
Orkney Disaster – South Africa (1991)
This was a friendly match between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, two of the most popular clubs in South African soccer.
It happened at the Oppenheimer Stadium in Orkney, on January 13, 1991. It led to the death of 42 fans.
The violence was sparked off after an Orlando Pirates fan stabbed a rival Kaizer Chiefs fan.
Zambia Plane Crash in Gabon (1993)
A military plane carrying the Zambian national team, Chipolopolo crashed just hours after re-fuelling in Libreville, Gabon, on April 27, 1993.
It killed all the 30 passengers on board. Out of these, 18 were players.
The team was headed to Dakar, to play Senegal in a World Cup qualifier.
Kalusya Bwalya, one of the country’s legendary footballers was not with the team as he had planned to fly from his club, PSV Eindhoven in The Netherlands.
The disaster was attributed to a mechanical fault within the plane.
Stade Tata Raphael Disaster – DR Congo
Violence broke out in a title-deciding match between AS Vita and TP Mazembe, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
TP Mazembe was leading 1-0 in the dying minutes and victory would give them the domestic league title.
Fans from the AS Vita side turned violent and clashed with the police inside the stadium in chaos that led to the death of 15 fans and at least 24 others injured.
Harare Tragedy – Zimbabwe (2002)
It occurred in a World Cup qualifier between Zimbabwe and South Africa, on July 9, 2002, at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.
It left 13 fans dead and scores of others injured. Zimbabwe fans threw stones and other crude objects into the pitch after South Africa scored the second goal which ended the host’s hopes of qualifying for the World Cup that was held in Japan and South Korea.
Bena Tshadi tragedy – DR Congo (1998)
It happened on October 26, 1998 in a match in the eastern province of Kasai, in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Lighting struck in a match between Ben Tshadi and Basanga.
All eleven Bena Tshadi players on the pitch were killed by the lighting and 30 people sustained burns.
There have been accusations of witchcraft as it remains a mystery how the lighting killed only players from the Bena Tshadi side.