THE Zimbabwe Football Association has refused to take blame for the chaotic scenes at the National Sports Stadium on Tuesday night when supporters stampeded to gain entry to watch Zimbabwe play the Democratic Republic of Congo in a Africa Cup of Nations Group G qualifier.
BY HENRY MHARA
There was total chaos at almost all designated entry points, with thousands of people gaining free entry by forcing themselves in having been frustrated with the slow pace the organisers were admitting fans into the venue.
As a result, Zifa might have lost potential revenue, and the association yesterday claimed that only 13 090 of the estimated 40 000 that watched the match, paid to watch the match, grossing a total $78 669.
Hundreds of people including Cabinet minister Kazembe Kazembe were frustrated away, while those that persevered to watch the match, were also left disappointed with Zifa’s lack of organisation.
The association has been under pressure to apologise for the muddled way they organised the game.
However, the association yesterday released a statement, where they chose to harp on what is already in the public domain.
“The association regrets the unfortunate crowd trouble and stampede which occurred at some entry points. We are very thankful that no life was lost,” said Zifa.
At most designated entry points around the stadium, some security details manning the gates took advantage of the chaos and made a killing by asking bribes from the desperate supporters to access the stadium.
Zifa said an organisation committee which comprises of all relevant stakeholders met yesterday to introspect on what went wrong and to proffer solutions going into the future.
“The meeting noted that all the roads leading to National Sports stadium were congested a few minutes before the match and about 80 percent of our beloved fans struggled to navigate the roads in order to arrive at the stadium before kick-off. The Committee noted that about 20 percent of the expected fans were at the stadium when the match kicked off. It became very difficult to serve more than 20 000 fans at once as this is impossible with the current gates we have at the National Sports stadium. We also experienced network and connectivity challenges at our payment points and this resulted in the slow processing of payments which culminated in restlessness and crowd trouble.
“The meeting was informed that some rogue elements who were dressed in military uniforms and some unscrupulous stewards also caused mayhem and assisted fans to enter the stadium using undesignated points, demanding bribes in return. In a bid to avert a stampede and curb loss of life, the committee also authorised that some gates be opened for fans to enter free of charge.
“We have visual evidence of the criminal behaviour displayed by rogue elements who were in military uniform and we will present it to relevant authorities for further action.
“Going forward, we endeavour to counter such scenarios by introducing pre-match ticket sales and availing adequate entry points.”
The match ended in a 1-all draw, but most fans missed the Warriors’ wonder goal, finished off by Khama Billiat inside the opening minute as they were still trapped outside the stadium.