At least 15 football fans have been killed in a stampede in DR Congo’s final match of the season between TP Mazembe and AS Vita in Kinshasa on SundayThe two most successful Congo clubs in recent times, witnessed their bitter rivalry intensify while TP Mazembe were leading 1-0 away from home.
Then the hosts AS Vita’s fans began throwing stones onto the field. According to the local minister for central Kinshasa, Emmanuel Akweti, this is why police began firing teargas to control the supporters.
Unfortunately, the police response had resulted in thousands of fans to panic, creating the stampede where 24 fans were crushed amidst the chaos.
"Four policemen were harassed by supporters. When they fired teargas, the stampede began, causing the deaths," Akweti said to Reuters.
Television coverage of the incident show that the fans were possibly blinded by the gas while the smoke engulfed the stadium, and supporters were running in opposing directions before falling over in desperation.
Akweti stated that the 15 confirmed dead, had passed away due to suffocation while 24 fans were injured.
Investigations will begin with regard to the cause of the tragedy, with the Tata Raphael stadium reportedly filled beyond capacity.
The Confederation of African Football (Caf) will also be concerned since the very same clubs are placed in one group for the African Champions League, scheduled to be played later in May in Lubumbashi.
South African club Orlando Pirates had knocked out TP Mazembe there in the Champions League last year, while AS Vita knocked out Kaizer Chiefs this year. In both away games the South African clubs had complained about unfair conditions.
Caf strongly condemned the tragedy and has urged for the authorities to solve a rising issue, since over 20 people had also died during a music festival for Congolese singer, King Kester Emeneya in April 2013. Back then the chaos started after generators had failed.
The latest tragedy comes just days after the anniversary of Africa's worst football disaster, when over 120 fans were killed on 9 May 2001 in Ghana. That was possibly a similar situation because police had fired teargas in the stadium in Accra too.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter responded on Twitter to the disaster. "Waiting for more news from DR Congo too after tragic reports. My thoughts are with all those who saw loved ones go to a game, not to return."
Caf President Issa also responded on behalf of the African continent's football community.
"I would like to express my deepest sympathy on hearing of the untimely deaths of at least 15 people during the match of AS Vita and TP Mazembe. Personally, and on behalf of the members of the African football community, I should be grateful if you could extend our deepest condolences to their families, friends and loved ones. Further, we wish those that have been reported injured and receiving medical assistance a full recovery," said Hayatou.