Nyayo Stadium faces imminent FIFA ban after the death of eight fans

Oct 24, 2010

In what appeared a typical Kenyan reaction to disasters, blame games began as another Fifa ban beckoned Kenya's Nyayo National Stadium following the death of eight fans in a stampede.

The World Football governing body may take stern action on Kenya for failing to take precautionary measures to save lives and manage access to stadium effectively. Kenya's struggling Harambee Stars are expected to host Angola in a Cup of Nations qualifier tie at the venue in March 2011.

Perhaps, it is time for the authorities to look back and regret the day they cancelled the Coca Cola offer to face-lift and upgrade the stadium to levels that meet security precautions and best practices.

The eight deaths during the return leg of perennial rival AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia FC have blotted Kenya's soccer image and negated gains made in trying to return fans to terraces.

The tragedy was a result of management wrangles, weak institutions and poor security planning in the wake of rains. It is emerging that security officers and Nyayo stadium management were not prepared for a heavy down pour even as weathermen pointed at inevitable rains. A match played 24 hours earlier was similarly soaked by heavy rains but had much less crowd compared to the much hyped derby.

The Government ordered investigations and a report is expected to be issued jointly by the Kenya Police, the KPL.

President Kibaki directed those charged with stadia safety to enhance safety in all the country’s stadia with the Prime Minister Raila Odinga expecting a full probe within one week.

“We have ordered immediate investigation by the Police and Officials. In future ticket sales need to be done in organised fashion to avoid such disasters,” said Raila.

Preliminary investigations pointed at how gates remained closed even after the match kicked off shortly after 7PM because of human traffic and long queues at entry points.

The manager of Nyayo Stadium Lilian Nzile and the Chief executive of The Stadia Board Management Services Benjamin Sogomo were quick to point fingers at the KPL, Gor Mahia FC and their fans accusing officials of disregarding instructions.

Said Sogomo,“It was joint effort between the management and organisers of the matches that is KPL. The biggest responsibility was on the Police who were present but occasionally the surge of the fans can overwhelm them.”

But even as the Stadia management pointed fingers at club officials and fans it was not immediately clear on why they allowed hundreds of cars to park inside the stadium blocking emergency access and exit routes for ambulances .Nyayo national stadium has 15 gates and only three were operational on Saturday for fans entering the stadium,and one for the ambulance.

“Traditional we have been using the same gates. even during the Uganda vs Kenya match and things were orderly. The gates have been sufficient,” argued Sogomo.

At one point members of the public literally pushed a salon car to clear the way for an ambulance to rush victims to hospital, yet another weakness yet to be addressed.

One of the begging issues is why match tickets were being sold on the day of the match in what was aimed at curbing the printing of fake tickets ahead of the match. Interestingly ticket masters aid they sold all tickets.

The VIP pavilion, which is the only tented canopy in the stadium, was full after some fans allegedly crossed from terraces to seek cover from the rains.

At Kenyatta National Hospital, a surgeon Dr Joseph Oraya narrated how he treated several patients for soft tissue injuries and discharged them.

The deaths follow last month's disaster in which a Gor Mahia fan died after plunging from the terraces as he celebrated the victory against KCB. In 2005, a Kenyan fan died while watching a match against Morocco.

Eyes will be focused on how investigations are carried out and remedial measures put in place. More importantly disaster preparedness of the country showed it remains at its lowest ebb and perhaps worse off on a weekend when officials charged with responsibility slept on the job.

Sportsnewsarena Team
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