By Thys Khiba
Johannesburg – It is 20 years since at least 43 people were killed in a stampede at Ellis Park stadium, Johannesburg, at a football match between Soweto giants, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.
Siyabonga Nomvethe, who was on the pitch as a Kaizer Chiefs player when the disaster happens on that day, has described the 2001 Ellis Park Stadium tragedy as “a heart-breaking memory.” Nomvethe says that the event was terrifying as he pays tribute to the Soweto derby supporters who were affected by the tragedy.
During a big match like Soweto derby, 250 spectators were injured as people poured into a stadium that was already full to over capacity. Twenty-nine people died inside the stadium and a further fourteen died outside. Several children, including eleven year old Rosswinn Nation and thirteen year old Sphiwe Mpungose were under the fatalities.
Ellis Park Stadium had a capacity of 60,000 but reports confirms there were many thousands more inside the ground. According South African Police Officers at least 120 000 people were present at the stadium.
Reports indicates that about 60 000 people were still outside the stadium as the match started. Most of the deaths occurred when the waiting crowd rushed the gate.
“Fans interviewed after the tragedy condemned the clubs’ attitude to safety, accusing them of being more interested in tickets than safety of the spectators. The police were also blamed for not keeping order outside the stadium.”
Meanwhile, forty-two people were killed in 1991 at Orkney during another Soweto derby match between the Pirates and the Chiefs.
According to the Kaizer Chiefs football club chairman, Kaizer Motaung, this day belongs to the bereaved families who lost their loved ones on this day and to all those who were injured.
“You are in our thoughts and you are in our prayers. We wish the Almighty gives you strength and want you to know we are always together with you on this day,” said Motaung.
Motaung describes the event as a day that left a very black mark on their history and it was a very dark day for South African football. He says that it can never be removed from their memories, because of what they saw and what happened.
“So, every game we play we should always remember them, especially if we do come to play at Ellis Park, which has not been the case in the current period.”