Stampede at World Cup warm-up match
TEMBISA, South Africa: A stampede outside a World Cup warm-up left 16 people injured Sunday, including two police officers, as the challenges facing organisers were brought into sharp focus days before the tournament kicks off.
The victims were crushed outside the gates as ticketless fans tried to force their way into the Makhulong stadium in Tembisa township, east of Johannesburg, where Nigeria were playing North Korea in a friendly, police said.
The incident in the build-up to the game came just hours after South African President Jacob Zuma and FIFA chief Sepp Blatter announced that everything was ready for the tournament -- the first World Cup to be played on African soil.
The 14 spectators were treated at the nearby Tebisa hospital while the injured officer was taken to another at Kempton Park.
Speaking at the ground, police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Eugene Opperman said that 8,000 free tickets had been distributed ahead of the match but other fans who were without tickets had tried to push their way in.
Johannesburg and the surrounding areas are home to large numbers of Nigerian expatriates and around a third of the fans inside the stadium appeared to be supporters of the Super Eagles.
The crush happened around an hour before kick-off although news filtered through only after the match had started. At one stage, the game was halted for around five minutes but there was no announcement for the reason and the players remained on the pitch.
The game continued under a heavy police presence with Nigeria winning 3-1.
The episode served as a sharp reminder of the challenges facing the tournament which begins on Friday and evoked ugly memories of previous crowd trouble in South Africa.