The disaster occurred during a match between Ghana’s two most successful football teams, Accra Hearts of Oak Sporting Club and Asante Kotoko in 2001.
As characterised by clashes between the two sporting clubs, trouble had been anticipated and extra security measures had been taken.
But after the home team, Accra Hearts of Oak, scored two late goals to defeat Kotoko 2–1, disappointed Kotoko fans began throwing plastic seats and bottles onto the pitch.
The response to this crowd disturbance from the police was to fire tear gas into the crowd.
Panic ensued and a resulting stampede led to the deaths of 127 fans from asphyxiation – a condition characterised by severe deficient supply of oxygen to the body due to inability to breathe normally.
An official inquiry, the Sam Okudzeto Commission, blamed police for over-reacting with reckless behaviour and indiscriminate firing of plastic bullets and tear gas.
The inquiry also accused some officers of dishonesty and indefensible laxity.
Reports claim that medical staff had already left the stadium, as the incident happened near the end of the match.
Some gates were locked, preventing escape. Six police officers were charged with 127 counts of manslaughter afterwards, but the court ruled that the prosecution had failed to make a case.
The Sam Okudzeto Commission of inquiry recommended improvements to stadium security and first aid facilities, and that nationwide rapid response teams should be set up.
To mark this year’s celebration, Ghana Football Association has directed that a minute’s silence be observed for the 12th anniversary of the May 9th disaster during the midweek matches in the GLO Premier League.
With the matches falling one day before the 12th anniversary of the tragedy, match officials including referees and match commissioners were asked to make sure it is observed.