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Illustration by Security Management

Crowd Surge at Cameroon Soccer Match Sparks Investigation

Security officials have been blamed for making some fatal errors that exacerbated crowd crush conditions at an African Cup of Nations soccer game in Cameroon. The stampede killed eight people and seven more are in serious condition. Competition organizers suspended all further games at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon, until an investigation can be completed, according to The Washington Post.

Soccer fans were trying to get into the stadium to watch the match between Cameroon and Comoros, and they may have been trying to avoid COVID-19 checkpoints. Attendees needed to show proof of a negative virus test and be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend African Cup games, then proceed through health screening and security checks at the stadium. Footage from the event showed people jumping over security fences, and police and security were overwhelmed.

According to the Cameroon government, 57,000 people were at the stadium; the crowd was supposed to be restricted to a maximum of 40,000, the BBC reported.

A witness said the stampede started after security officials directed fans toward a locked entrance gate. The crowd surged forward when the gate was eventually opened, and people were trampled in the crush. Medical help for injured people was not immediately available. The initial investigation will likely focus on why the gate had been shut, said Confederation of African Football President Patrice Motsepe in a press conference.

“We have a duty to find out exactly what happened and more importantly put in preventative measures to ensure that what happened never happens again,” he said. “There were deficiencies, weaknesses, failures—things that should have been foreseen.”

All future African Cup games have been moved out of the Olembe stadium, as Motsepe added, “Our priority is the safety of people and if we are not assured that the stadium offers that safety, we will not accept matches to be played there again.”

The stampede in Cameroon recalls a similar crowd surge incident in November 2021, when 50,000 attendees at a Houston, Texas, music festival pushed forward during a musical performance, crushing hundreds and killing 10.

“Surges occur for a few reasons, often in combination with each other,” Steven Crimando, principal of Behavioral Science Applications, told Security Management at the time. “In concerts, for example, people want to get closer to the stage or artist and continue to push in. The people towards the rear of the surge feel a little give and try to close the gap by moving forward. They don’t realize the tremendous physical forces they are exerting on the people at the front of the surge, where the amount of force becomes irresistible, and they can’t push back. It can happen in a panic when psychologically people believe there is a limited opportunity for escape, and they aggressively try to push forward to get out of danger.”