A stampede near Jaza’a Al Nakhla Stadium in the southern Iraqi city of Basra ahead of a football match killed two, and left over 60 injured, according to an AFP report. The stampede took place hours ahead of the Gulf Cup final between Iraq and Oman. Thousands of supporters had gathered without tickets outside the stadium attempting to gain entry ahead of the 7 PM kickoff (16000 GMT) of the final match of the first international soccer tournament held in the country in four decades.
“There have been two deaths and dozens are injured,” a medic was quoted as saying by AFP.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs reportedly urged the residents to avoid the area near the stadium until the situation is resolved.
According to local media reports, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani is holding urgent meetings to assess the situation.
Despite the stampede, the Iraqi Football Association said the match will go ahead.
“The match between the Iraqi and Omani national teams will take place as scheduled. We call on honorable fans to refrain from coming to the match stadium because the stands are completely full.”
Incidentally, this was the first time that Iraq had been granted the hosting duties for the Gulf Cup since 1979. The tournament was an opportunity for Iraq to show that it can be entrusted with the hosting duties as four decades of conflict have kept football away from the country.
The tournament started on January 6 with Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates as the eight participants.
The stadium stampede in Iraq comes months after over 130 were killed in Indonesia at the Kanjuruhan stadium in one of the worst sporting disasters in modern history.
(With inputs from agencies)