Trouble mars Nigeria-North Korea game
A police officer has been seriously injured in a stampede which forced Sunday's friendly between Nigeria and North Korea in Tembisa to be suspended.
At least 20 fans were injured, 14 needing hospital attention, when mostly Nigeria supporters tried to force their way into the Makhulong Stadium. They reportedly had photocopies of legitimate tickets and, after been refused entry, rushed the gates once they had been closed.
The match at the 10,000-capacity venue was not full despite tickets for the match being given away for free.
"I thought I was dying," said Princess Mbali, who was wearing a South Africa shirt. "I was at the bottom ... Maybe my ribs are broken. No one is helping us and we are South Africans."
"I fell down and people just fell over me," Japhta Mombelo added. "That crowd is overpowering. The police have told me to stay around and they will organise an ambulance but I am still waiting."
The policeman was hurt when a fence was pushed down on top of him. "He was crushed by the gates as people stormed them, trying to get in," Reuters was told by police spokesman, Mveli Nhlapo. Reuters also reported that a child was injured in the crush.
Explaining what happened, the South African Police Services (SAPS) said in a statement: "The friendly match was arranged by a private company and tickets were apparently being handed out by the teams outside the stadium.
"Initial reports from the stadium, which is not a 2010 FIFA World Cup stadium, indicate that 10,000 tickets were distributed outside the stadium but a number of fans wanted to enter the stadium without tickets. It would seem that there was also some confusion among the crowd as to the ticketing system which led to disruptive behaviour on the part of the crowd.
"Police members immediately started implementing crowd management measures but the crowd became unruly and pushed against the gates, forcing them open on two occasions. One police official was seriously wounded when he was trampled by the crowd, one police official was slightly injured but remained on duty.
"The police official (seriously wounded) is in a stable condition. The police did all in their power to prevent fatalities and minimise injuries.''
The 14 people taken to hospital had mostly minor injuries.
The match was stopped four minutes into the second half as officials tried to restore order after the main stand became overcrowded with people who had managed to get into the ground. A hand rail in the stand gave way which led to concern supporters could be injured. The match restarted after five minutes.
FIFA said in a statement it was not to blame: "FIFA and the Organising Committee (OC) of the 2010 FIFA World Cup have been informed by the South African Police Services (SAPS) about the incidents which have taken place today on the occasion of the friendly match between Nigeria and Korea DPR played in Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg.
"FIFA and the OC would like to first wish a prompt recovery to those who have been affected by these incidents. In addition, FIFA and the OC would like to reiterate that this friendly match has no relation whatsoever with the operational organisation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, for which we remain fully confident.
"Contrary to some media reports, FIFA had nothing to do with the ticketing of this game.''