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Afcon stadium crush: ‘The force behind forced us to fall’

On Monday, 46-year-old Cameroon fan Ndombi Irene was excited as she approached Yaounde’s Olembe Stadium with her son for the Africa Cup of Nations knock-out tie with Comoros. However, as she neared the stadium perimeter, her dreams turned into a nightmare as a crush left eight dead. Here, she tells BBC Sport Africa’s Piers Edwards her story.

“As we were approaching the first entrance, where we were supposed to be checked for Covid pass and match ticket, I realised the entrance was too small.

Then the police suddenly asked us to stop. I don’t know why – maybe they wanted to do a check or something.

I observed from the crowd outside, and the way the police were managing it, that it might be very difficult for everybody to enter the stadium before 8pm when the match was supposed to start.

When I realised that, it was already too late – I could not go back, I could not go forward. I was stuck in the middle of the crowd, where we were just being forced by the pressure behind to keep moving.

The crowd behind did not know what was happening ahead – that those in front were not moving – so they kept coming and coming.

I was not in the first line. There were other people in front of me. I was about 10 rows from the front, caught up in the middle of people. I was stuck there for no more than 15 minutes – it was very intense, very severe.

When the pressure became too high, the smaller movable fences [not the fixed iron ones outside the Olembe Stadium] were pushed over and people fell on them. The fences wounded and maybe even suffocated some – for they were [held down by breeze blocks] to stop people from passing.

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The crowd was so mammoth that the stampede occurred all of a sudden. The force behind forced us in front to fall and those from behind walked over us – smashing us. Most of us choked in the dust that was on the floor.

I was actually choking – my vision was blurred – I could not see. It was only after some time that I was able to see again. I could not talk [for a while afterwards either].

I think I was on the ground for about five minutes when the people were stampeding forward, before somebody was able to pull me out.

I just found somebody pulling me out of the crowd by my head – that’s how I got saved.

I am really just so fortunate. At the hospital where the few of us that were unconscious were rushed, only two of us were alive. The seven people around me were dead, so I really count myself very, very fortunate to be alive.

I was with my son and three colleagues from my school. We are all alive.

Honestly, I think the security agents did not foresee that situation. They were not prepared for it. I thought that if they had made provision for spectators to line up even 300 metres before the entrance, it would have been better.

I estimate that more than 1,000 people were at the entrance at the time, and the available police officers could not manage the crowd that was there at that time.

At one point, the police succeeded in pushing back the crowd towards the back, so all the 1,000 people did not walk over those who fell – if that had been the case, we would have had more casualties.

That was a very bad experience – I’ll never like to go to a football match again.” BBC News