JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A stampede by fans during a pre-World Cup match at the Makhulong Stadium between Nigeria and North Korea on Sunday left 14 slightly hurt and one policeman in a serious condition, police said.
The match was stopped for around five minutes early in the second half because of the injuries and safety of the fans in the overcrowded main stand where the fencing had been removed.
“There are 14 people slightly injured and one policeman seriously injured,” South African police official Eugene Opperran said.
He said the stampede started when too many fans had obtained free tickets for the match and stormed the entrance to the stadium.
Hundreds of mostly Nigerian fans pushed the gate on to the police officer in their effort to enter the 10,000-seater stadium to watch the match between the two World Cup participants.
“He was crushed by the gates as people stormed them, trying to get in,” another police official at the scene told Reuters.
He said many of the fans had what appeared to be just photocopies of the tickets.
Among those injured were two children, according to a Reuters witness.
Some 500 fans remained in the area around the stadium for some time after the stampede before dispersing peacefully.
Nigeria won the match 3-1.
Inside the stadium there were still many empty seats as the match was not sold out.
“Nobody can be blamed for this. We did not have any choice of an alternate bigger venue,” Nigerian Football Federation board member Taiwo Ogunjobi said.
“We are just thankful nobody died. The tickets were free and too many people wanted to get in.” The stadium in the Johannesburg suburb will not host any World Cup matches.
There was no immediate word on the policeman’s condition nor comment from the sport’s governing body, FIFA.
The tournament kicks off on Friday, June 11.