By Sports Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) has blamed members of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) for the chaos that marred the Warriors’ 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Group G qualifier against the Democratic Republic of Congo at the National Sports Stadium.
The local football governing body has been criticised following the chaotic scenes at the National Sports Stadium on Tuesday night as supporters stampeded to gain entry to watch the match which ended in a 1-1 stalemate.
Due to the chaos, the cash-strapped association, which had hiked gate charges on the eve of the match lost thousands of dollars in potential revenue as thousands of fans forced themselves into the stadium after gaining free entry while others were frustrated away.
Zifa however, revealed after a meeting of all involved stakeholders on Friday they noted that the chaos which saw only 13,090 of the estimated crowd of over 35,000 who watched the match paying to gain entry inside the stadium was caused by “some rogue elements who were dressed in military uniforms”.
“The meeting was informed that some rogue elements who were dressed in military uniforms and some unscrupulous stewards also caused mayhem and assisted fans to enter the stadium using undesignated points, demanding bribes in return,” Zifa communications manager Xolisani Gwesela said in a statement.
“In a bid to avert a stampede and curb loss of life, the committee also authorised that some gates be opened for fans to enter free of charge. We have visual evidence of the criminal behaviour displayed by rogue elements who were in military uniform and we will present it to relevant authorities for further action,” Zifa said.
The local football mother body said it would introduce pre-match ticket sales while also providing adequate entry points to avoid a recurrence of the chaos witnessed on Tuesday.
“Going forward, we endeavour to counter such scenarios by introducing pre-match ticket sales and availing adequate entry points.
“We would like to thank our security teams; the Zimbabwe Republic Police, stewards and Peace Security guards for diligently carrying out their duties and exercising minimum force even when there was crowd trouble.
“On that note, we would like to also encourage our beloved supporters to make their way to the stadium a little bit earlier to avoid the last-minute rush,” the Zifa spokesperson said.
Gwesela added: “All stakeholders were alive to the challenge and the possible fatalities when the crowd forced its way into the stadium. We are glad that no case of injury has been officially reported as at this moment.
“To avoid recurrence of Tuesday’s unfortunate events, all stakeholders involved in the organisation of national team matches have agreed to reactivate the Disaster Management Committee. The Stadium authorities will endeavour to ensure that all gates are in good working order.
“We shall also conduct regular meetings to ensure that all is in order before matches. The committee recommended that all stewards to be employed during matches should be drawn from reputable security organisations and further vetted by the police.”
After the one-all draw at home in Tuesday, the Warriors need a point from their last two games against Liberia (away) and Congo at home to be book their place at the Africa Cup of Nations Cup finals in Cameroon next June.