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Cameroon Lifts Stadium Ban for Football Fans After Deadly Stampede


Soccer (Football) fans erupt in joy at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon during AFCON's semi final game between Burkina Faso and Senegal, Feb. 2, 2022.

Cameroon has deployed thousands of additional police to the capital’s Olembe Stadium ahead of Thursday evening’s Africa Football Cup of Nations semifinal between Egypt and Cameroon. The stadium was suspended last week from hosting games after a football fan stampede overpowered security and killed eight people. The suspension was lifted Sunday after Cameroonian authorities assured the Confederation of African Football of additional security measures.

Pressure is mounting by the day as football fans prepare to watch teams participating in the Africa Football Cup of Nations matches, says the local AFCON organizing committee.

Cameroon said Thursday that close to 70,000 football fans want to watch the AFCON semifinal clash between the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon and the Pharaohs of Egypt at Yaounde’s 60,000-seat Olembe Stadium.

Cameroon’s ministry of sports and physical education says about 3,000 of the 70,000 fans who are pressing to watch the match are supporters of the Pharaohs of Egypt. The others support the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.

Nasseri Paul Bea, governor of Cameroon’s Centre Region, where Yaounde’s Olembe Stadium is located, says the government has mobilized 2,000 police officers to ensure the security and safety of football players, fans and match officials taking part in the games.

“People who come one hour into [before] the match, will not be allowed entry into the field [stadium], and we would like them to make their corona tests before they come to the field," Bea said. "When you come with your test results, they [police] will give you a pass and it will make entry into the field [stadium] more fluid and more elegant. We are calling on this population [football fans] to collaborate because CAF has said that there will be zero tolerance and we want them to understand that it is the image of our country [that is at stake]."

Bea said tickets to the Cameroon-Egypt match will not be sold at the Olembe Stadium. He said many ways to enter the stadium will be opened to ensure the safety of fans, players and match officials. During the first matches of the tournament played at Olembe, only one gate was opened making access to the stadium very difficult for the 57,000 fans who attended the match. Bea said seven additional gates will be opened during the match between Cameroon and Egypt on Thursday.

Last week, CAF suspended AFCON matches at the Olembe Stadium after a crush killed eight and wounded 38 people. The crush happened as crowds struggled to gain access to the stadium as Cameroon beat Comoros 2-1 to reach the quarterfinals.

On Sunday, CAF said that taking note of undertakings from Cameroon to assure the safety of football fans, players and match officials, it unanimously agreed to lift the suspension imposed on the Olembe Stadium. CAF said it would allow one AFCON semifinal game to take place in the Olembe Stadium and that if security is still threatened, the stadium will again be suspended.

Funui Clifford, spokesperson of the Association of Supporters of the Indomitable Lions says fans should stop behavior that jeopardizes safety of others, such as jumping the stadium fence if they do not have negative COVID-19 results or tickets.

“We are citizens," Funui said. "We equally need to be responsible when going to the stadium. If each and every person takes responsibility in their own hands, I think we will not come close to anything like what I saw at Olembe last Monday.

The CAF said for security reasons and to curb the spread of COVID-19, a maximum of 45,000 fans will be authorized to watch the match at the 60,000-seat Olembe Stadium.

Cameroon’s police said in a statement that they plan to ensure only 45,000 fans are admitted into the stadium as requested by CAF and that the 2,000 police deployed will not tolerate dangerous behavior from spectators.

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