Scramble before a soccer game in Iraq: one dead, umpteen injured

Scramble before a soccer game in Iraq: one dead, umpteen injured

One person died and “dozens” others were injured in a stampede in front of a stadium in Iraq where the Gulf Cup final is being played on Thursday, medical and security sources said.

Thousands of ticketless fans crowded outside the gates of a stadium in Basra (south) at dawn hoping to catch the Iraq-Oman match from 19:00 (16:00 GMT) when the rush took place.

“There is one dead and dozens of minor injuries,” a medical source said on condition of anonymity.

An Interior Ministry official confirmed the toll, explaining that the crowds were due to the “large number of fans, especially people without tickets, who had been gathering and trying to enter the stadium since the morning”.

According to an AFP photographer inside the sports complex, the gates were closed when the stampede took place. He said he heard the sirens of many ambulances coming to help the injured.

In photos posted on social networks, we could see a human flood trying to reach the stadium.

Iraq, a country wracked by four decades of conflict, is banking heavily on the 25th Gulf Soccer Cup in Basra to restore its image after years of being unable to organize international meetings due to the security situation.

This is the first time since 1979 that the Gulf Cup, a biennial event, has been hosted there.

However, since the opening ceremony two weeks ago, logistical problems have plagued the tournament. Thousands of fans – some with tickets – and duly accredited journalists were denied access to the stadium for no particular reason.

The tournament brought together eight countries (Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates) and Iraq managed to qualify for the final, which is scheduled to take place on Thursday evening.