BASRA, IRAQ (AFP) – One person was killed and dozens injured on Thursday during a stampede outside an Iraqi football stadium hours before the Gulf Cup final, officials said.
Long banned from hosting international football matches, war-torn Iraq had been counting on the Gulf Cup to burnish its image but it had already been forced to apologise for organisational lapses.
The final match was still able to take place on Thursday night and ended in an Iraqi victory.
Thousands of fans, many without tickets, had earlier gathered outside the 65,000-seat stadium in Iraq’s main southern city of Basra since dawn in the hope of watching the Iraq-Oman duel. “There has been one death and dozens of slight injuries,” a medic said.
An Interior Minister official gave the same toll.
“A large number of fans, many of them without tickets, had gathered since first light to try to get in,” the official said.
An AFP photographer inside the stadium said the turnstiles were still closed when the crush occurred.
Sirens blared as ambulances arrived to ferry the injured to hospital. Images posted on social media showed a sea of people outside the stadium.
Fans began arriving again in the afternoon as calm was restored to Basra International Stadium, said Interior Minister spokesman Saad Maan.