Fifa stunned by Ellis Park disaster
Fifa stunned by Ellis Park disaster

Posted in News on Apr 16, 2001.

Fifa officials said on Thursday they were stunned and horrified by the stampede which left 43 people dead at a soccer match in South Africa.

"Fifa learnt with great distress about the tragedy that occurred at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg on Wednesday when Orlando Pirates played against their premier league rivals Kaizer Chiefs," soccer's world governing body said in a statement.

Fifa President Joseph Blatter and General Secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen sent a joint letter of condolence to Molefi Oliphant, the President of the South African Football Association (Safa).

"The Fifa family and we were stunned and horrified to hear of the terrible accident that occurred yesterday at Ellis Park. It was indeed a very sad day for our sport," the letter said.

"Our thoughts and prayers dwell on the innocent victims of this disaster and the many families and friends who must suffer such cruel bereavement and grief," it added.

"May we also convey our profoundest condolences to you and your colleagues for this devastating blow to South African football and wish you fortitude in the days ahead. Please also express our message of sympathy to the bereaved families."

Blatter said he did not want to make any comment about the potential consequences of the disaster for South Africa's plans to host the 2010 World Cup.

Although the country's bid to stage the 2006 World Cup failed last year when it lost a ballot by one vote to Germany, Fifa have said they are committed to holding the 2010 tournament on the African continent.

South Africa are the strong favourites to host the event but Blatter said it was not an appropriate time to discuss the issue.

"We must have the decency to bury the dead first," Blatter said. "Priority then must be to obtain complete and exhaustive findings on the causes of this latest tragedy in our game so that lessons can be drawn for the future."

"Football must do everything in its power that such disasters do not occur again."

The issue of security at matches will also be on the agenda at the next meeting of Fifa's Executive Committee and the Extraordinary Fifa Congress due to be held in July in Buenos Aires.

The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has also faxed a letter of condolence to the Safa.

"We hope that together with government authorities and security officials they will be able to avoid such tragedies in the future," Caf secretary-general Mustapha Fahmy said. "We are very sorry."

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