ABIDJAN - At least 19 people were killed on Sunday in a stampede at an overcrowded stadium during an international match in Ivory Coast, officials said. "We have 19 dead and many seriously injured," a military source at the stadium said. 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 in the West African country's main city, Abidjan. "Spectators who did not buy tickets were jostling before the match," Sports Minister Dagobert Banzio said on state television. "They smashed one of the main gates of the stadium. They were trampled." He put the number of injured at 132. "There were lots of supporters outside who wanted to get in," Interior Minister Desire Tagro said. "There was a crush." The tragedy followed similar incidents which have marred international matches in Africa in the last decade, including two separate ones in Zambia and the death of 13 people in Zimbabwe nine years ago. FIFA instigated a programme of stadium inspections across Africa before the 2010 World Cup qualifiers and Abidjan's Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium was passed as safe for international matches. On the field, Chelsea striker Didier Drogba marked his return to competitive international football with two goals to lead Ivory Coast to a 5-0 win over Malawi. The Chelsea striker, who missed the first six qualifiers due to a knee injury, converted a seventh-minute penalty and followed up with a 27th-minute goal as the Elephants romped home in Abidjan in their Group E opener. Ghana were also victorious in Group D but two heavily fancied teams, Egypt and Nigeria were held to draws in Sunday's qualifiers. PERFECT START The Ivory Coast Coast made a perfect start with a first- minute goal from Christian Koffi Ndri before Drogba's double ensured a 3-0 halftime lead. His Chelsea team mate Salomon Kalou added a fourth midway through the first half before Marseille striker Bakary Kone completed the rout. The Ivorians share top place with Burkina Faso, who claimed a 4-2 home win over Guinea in Ouagadougou on Saturday. Ghana's Black Stars also scored a first-minute goal in their Group D qualifier against Benin in Kumasi but were unable to add to Prince Tagoe's effort. African champions Egypt suffered a major setback when they let a lead slip in their Group C match at home to Zambia in Cairo. They were held to a 1-1 draw after taking a first-half lead through striker Amr Zaki, who sneaked behind the defence to convert a clever cross. But a simple corner routine enabled Francis Kasonde to equalise 10 minutes into the second half. Mozambique had two efforts disallowed in their 0-0 draw at home to Nigeria, who might have snatched an undeserved win at the end of the Group B game in Maputo when Obafemi Martins shot into the side netting.
29 March 2009
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