FIFA order inquiry into Abidjan tragedy

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JOHANNESBURG - FIFA have ordered an investigation into a stadium crush in Abidjan in which at least 19 people were killed and a further 132 injured before a World Cup qualifier between Ivory Coast and Malawi on Sunday. A brief statement on Monday from world football's governing body said FIFA had requested a full report from the Ivorian Football Federation and local authorities to "establish the sequence of events that happened outside the stadium before the match". "Once this report has been received, FIFA will be in a position to make further comment, as well as continue our efforts to ensure that such tragic circumstances do not happen again," it added. The crush occurred after part of a wall collapsed when ticketless fans stormed one of the entrances to the 45,000-capacity Houphouet-Boigny arena. The Ivory Coast government on Monday said it was holding a crisis meeting to determine responsibility for the deaths. "We want to made a first start and find out exactly who is responsible for the origin of this drama," government spokesman Sindou Meite told radio reporters. Despite a bid by FIFA to force the improvement of stadium facilities across the continent, the crush in Abidjan is the second such incident during the 2010 qualifiers in Africa. In June, eight people were killed in a crush in Liberia as spectators jostled to get into an already overcrowded stadium in Monrovia for the match between Liberia and the Gambia. A FIFA audit in August 2007 found just 18 African nations had soccer stadiums safe enough to allow World Cup qualifiers to be hosted, following inspection of facilities across 50 countries. Strict criteria introduced to ensure dangerous facilities were upgraded and FIFA also threatened that countries without proper stadium facilities would forfeit home advantage during the 2010 World Cup preliminaries. COSMETIC CHANGES But FIFA eventually allowed cosmetic changes, such as upgrades to changing rooms, to be effected to prevent the potential political fall out of the majority of African countries being forced to play their 2010 World Cup qualifiers at neutral venues. In the end, all but one stadium was passed fit to host World Cup games. FIFA also initiated the appointment of a security officer for each World Cup qualifier but the continent's football officials have long complained about the lack of co-operation from police who often impose their own security plans on big matches without consultation.