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Tragic Olembe stadium to resume hosting AFCON matches

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Themba Hadebe/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


The African soccer confederation lifted a temporary suspension on games at the main stadium at the African Cup of Nations tournament on Sunday, and it will allow the stadium to host a semifinal and the Feb. 6 final after a crush that left eight fans dead and 38 injured, seven of them seriously.

The Confederation of African Football made the move after receiving a report into the deadly stampede last Monday at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde during the last-16 game between tournament host Cameroon and Comoros.

“The report dealt with and highlighted the tragic circumstances which led to thirty-eight people being injured and eight fatalities,” CAF said in a statement. “The report further highlighted the recommendations and interventions to ensure that a tragedy of this nature should never be repeated.”

CAF didn't give any detail on the report, its findings or its recommendations. But it said that it was satisfied by the additional security that had been put in place at African Cup games this week since the Olembe Stadium tragedy.

It means that a semifinal between Mohamed Salah's Egypt and Cameroon will now go ahead at the Olembe Stadium on Thursday and the stadium, which cost Cameroon more than $300 million to build for the African Cup, will be able to hold the final.

CAF had moved one quarterfinal away from the stadium in the aftermath of the crush while it awaited the report, which was compiled by CAF's own safety and security department and the local Cameroon organizing committee.

CAF said it was now “confident that the safety and security of spectators and visitors will be assured."

The Cameroon government on Friday blamed a huge surge of ticketless fans for the crush, saying they had arrived late for the game and had forced their way into the stadium to avoid ticket checks and COVID-19 screening.

But witnesses have claimed that security officials are at least partly to blame for the deaths by directing supporters who did have tickets toward an area where a gate was locked, leaving them trapped only for a surge of fans behind them to cause the crush.

The Cameroon government's assessment also appears to be in contrast to that of CAF president Patrice Motsepe, who said at a news conference a day after the tragedy that the locked gate caused the deaths.

“Clearly there were deficiencies, clearly there were failures. There were weaknesses," Motsepe said of the security at the stadium that night.

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