Africa’s ufabet football stadiums were no strangers to tragedy, but the stench of death hung over them more heavily than ever at the turn of the century.
In 2000, in Monrovia, at a game between Liberia and Chad, three fans died in a crush at a ludicrously over-full stadium. Shortly afterwards, during a World Cup qualifier between Zimbabwe and South Africa in Harare, thirteen people were killed in a stampede when police deliberately fired tear gas into the stadium exits.
The Congolese police did the same in Lubumbashi the following year, leaving eight dead in their wake. Then in South Africa, an estimated crowd of over 80,000 was squeezed into the 62,000-capacity Ellis Park for the Kaizer Chiefs v Orlando Pirates Johannesburg derby. Panic in the crowd before the game, made worse by the police, turned into a stampede in which forty-three people died and 158 were injured; at kick-off the roar of the crowd smothered the screams of the dying.
Later in 2001, during the final seconds of the Ghanaian derby, with Hearts of Oak leading Asante Kotoko 2-1, police fired tear gas into the home crowd, many of whose members were already departing. The stampede that followed was jammed up against locked exit gates and left 126 fatalities.
The various post-mortems and inquiries into the state of African football and its stadiums that followed these events laid bare the shameless profiteering by officials who were over-selling ยูฟ่าเบท tickets without any thought for safety considerations, and revealed stadium management, stewarding and policing all to be reactive and dire. As with so many other aspects of the African city, football’s public infrastructure was antiquated, poorly maintained, and on occasion deadly.
These stadiums had been built in the immediate post-war era by colonial regimes who, just a decade or so later, would hand over power to newly independent African nations. Ghana, Nigeria Zambia and Zaire were all symbolically born in football stadia. Archi. tecturally unremarkable, these were at least functional and have served across the continent as venues for national celebrations, mass religious services, political rallies, temporary army bases and prisons, as well as football matches.
However, despite their utility, no African state, Nigeria and South Africa aside, would prove able to build a significant post-independence stadium themselves, or even maintain their small inheritance, as these disasters demonstrated.
In fact, for almost half a century now, the only new source of these uniquely important centres of African urban culture and politics has been China.