World Cup notebook

Stampede outside soccer stadium injures 15

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Thousands of soccer fans stampeded outside a stadium Sunday before an exhibition game between Nigeria and North Korea, leaving 15 people injured, including one police officer who was seriously hurt.

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By Associated Press
Monday, June 7, 2010

Thousands of soccer fans stampeded outside a stadium in Tembisa, South Africa, on Sunday before an exhibition game between Nigeria and North Korea, leaving 15 people injured, including one police officer who was seriously hurt.

Several fans fell under the rush of people, many wearing Nigeria jerseys. The Makhulong Stadium in the Johannesburg suburb seats about 12,000 fans.

The mayhem happened only five days before the start of the World Cup, the first to be held in Africa.

"At this moment we have 14 civilians that were slightly injured in the process, one policeman seriously injured," police spokesman Lt. Col. Eugene Opperman said outside the stadium. The injured were being treated at a hospital, he said.

Opperman said tickets for the game were given out for free outside the stadium.

"What then occurred was large groups of people gathered outside the gates wanting to come in and wanting to get free tickets. Unfortunately in the process, the gates were opened and there was a stampede," Opperman said.

Soccer's international governing body said it had nothing to do with the ticketing.

"FIFA and the OC [local organizing committee] would like to reiterate that this friendly match has no relation whatsoever with the operational organization of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, for which we remain fully confident," FIFA said in a statement.

Police spokesman Col. Hangwani Mulaudzi added that because this was an exhibition game, the Nigerian team -- the designated host -- was responsible for security, not World Cup organizers.

Once trouble broke out, he said, police stepped in.

Official minimizes alert

The U.S. ambassador to South Africa played down the State Department's crime alert to Americans attending the World Cup. Ambassador Donald Gips, wearing a U.S. national team road jersey, attended the American training session.

"There is no new concern about violence," Gips said. "South Africa does have a crime problem that they're addressing, and we want to make sure Americans are aware of that and stay in places that are safe."


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