x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 October 2017

Senegal suspends sports events after football deaths

Sports minister Matar Ba said a young girl was among the dead, while around 60 injured fans had been taken to health facilities in Dakar

People look at the scene after a wall collapsed at Demba Diop stadium on July 15, 2017 in Dakar after a football game between local teams Ouakam and Stade de Mbour. AFP / Seyllou
People look at the scene after a wall collapsed at Demba Diop stadium on July 15, 2017 in Dakar after a football game between local teams Ouakam and Stade de Mbour. AFP / Seyllou

Senegal on Sunday suspended all sports and cultural events until elections at the end of the month, a day after eight people — including a young girl — died in a football stadium disaster.

Legislative elections are due on July 30 and tensions are running high with prominent opposition leader and Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall campaigning from jail.

"All sporting and cultural activities are banned across the national territory for the rest of the electoral campaign," Seydou Gueye, a spokesman for the prime minister, said.

A judicial inquiry will be opened to investigate the tragedy and determine who was responsible for it, he said.

A wall collapsed in a Dakar stadium during an end of the League Cup final between Stade de Mbour and US Ouakam which was marred by clashes between rival fans. Sixty people were injured, sports minister Matar Ba told AFP.

"All of a sudden when the wall fell … we knew exactly that some of our own had lost their lives because the wall fell directly onto people," said Cheikh Maba Diop, a witness who helped evacuate victims from the stadium and lost a friend in the tragedy.

Also speaking at the scene, football fan Mara Die Diouf said policing at the stadium had been inadequate.

"What I find terrible is that we have this kind of final in this kind of stadium here where there isn't enough security," he said.

Mr Diouf described police retreating from an area separating the two teams' supporters once projectiles began being thrown, triggering dangerous movements by spectators unable to defend themselves.

Campaigning for the elections by the ruling coalition of President Macky Sall was also suspended Sunday out of respect for the victims.

On Friday, rival supporters of President Sall and Mayor Sall, who are not related, clashed armed with knives in northern Dakar and several people were injured.