(Reuters) – One person died and 40 were injured in a stampede before kick-off at an African Nations Cup qualifier between Madagascar and Senegal in Antananarivo on Sunday.
Local hospital officials confirmed the fatality after fans tried to enter an already full Stade Municipal de Mahamasina in the country’s capital ahead of the eagerly-awaited fixture.
Spectators had been queuing outside the venue since early morning for the afternoon kick-off and once the 22,000 capacity venue was full officials closed the gates with hundreds still hoping to get in.
“The supporters wanted to get in but the gate was closed because the stands were full,” police chief Herilalatiana Andrianarisaona told French radio station RFI.
“The people in front couldn’t step back and other people arrived behind them in some numbers. This is what provoked the stampede.”
Madagascan sports minister Tsihoara Faratiana visited the injured in hospital along with the ministers of defence and health, as well as officials from the Malagasy football federation.
There was a minute’s silence for the victims before kick-off as the match started as scheduled and finished in a 2-2 draw.
Deaths at stadiums have been all too frequent on the African continent in the past as poor policing and marshalling of spectators at usually over-crowded venues has provided a recipe for tragedy.
The worst loss of life was at the Accra Sports Stadium in Ghana when 127 fans died in 2001 after police fired teargas into the stands following a league match between Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko.
In 2012, 74 people were killed when fans of Egyptian side Al Masry turned violent against visiting supporters of Al Ahly at the Port Said Stadium.
Panicked Ahly fans were attacked with blunt instruments and knives, and many were killed in a crush as they tried to escape the violence, while others fell or were thrown from terraces.
Last year, eight fans died in a stampede at a game in Malawi, while the same number were killed in a cup final in Senegal.
Two fans were killed in South Africa during a crush at an entrance gate for a pre-season friendly between Soweto sides Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates at Soccer City, the venue for the 2010 World Cup final, in July last year.
(Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Clare Fallon)