Players visit victims of soccer tragedy in hospital
Players visit victims of soccer tragedy in hospital

Posted in News on Apr 16, 2001.

Some of South Africa's top soccer players brought food, a choir and their good wishes Friday to hospitals holding some of the fans injured in the soccer stampede that killed 43 people earlier this week.

The Orlando Pirates players brought meat pies, fruit and pastries

to patients treated in Johannesburg Hospital. As their team choir

sang in the background, they moved from bed to bed saying prayers

and exchanging hugs with victims of Wednesday night's disaster.

Despite painful injuries and lost loved ones, the victims smiled

broadly when the players walked in. Many burst into tears when the

choir began singing.

Pirates owner Irvin Khoza said he wanted to recreate the experience

of being home for those who have to stay in the hospital over


"It is important for them to know that they are not alone in this

time of tragedy," he said.

The Kaizer Chiefs players also visited many of those who were

wounded when thousands of fans locked outside the Chiefs-Pirates

match stampeded through the fence at Ellis Park Stadium, crushing

scores of people.

Authorities announced plans Friday to hold a public memorial

ceremony Sunday at Ellis Park. Stadium officials expected 30,000

people at the service. President Thabo Mbeki and players from the

Chiefs and Pirates said they would also attend.

In addition to the 43 people killed in the attack, 160 people were

injured, and 89 of them were hospitalized.

Grieving the loss of his cousin, and unable to walk, George Musi,

26, lit up when Chief's captain Doctor Khumalo approached his


"It makes me feel very good that they came," Musi said.

Musi traveled to the match with his cousin and his best friend from

Pietersburg, 275 kilometers (170 miles) away. They were on the

second level of the stadium when the stampede started. Musi's

cousin was just a few feet (a meter) away when he was killed, but

the throng was so thick, Musi never saw it happen.

Musi's leg was crushed, and he suffered nerve damage.

Despite the tragedy, Musi, who blamed the stampede on overcrowding,

lack of proper security, and excessive ticket sales, said he loved

the Chiefs and would go to future games as soon as he was better.

Minutes after the Chiefs left to visit another hospital, the

Pirates arrived.

Many of the victims were moved to tears as the Pirates choir sang

and prayers were offered in Zulu, Tswana, and English.

When one victim told the players he was worried about his medical

bills, team spokeswoman Zodwa Khoza told him: "As much as you were

there for us, we are here for you."

The two teams, South Africa's Premier Soccer League and the South

African Football Association have opened a crisis center for the

victims and their families and they will pay for the entire cost of

medical treatment for those injured. They also pledged 15,000 rands

(dlrs 2,000) to each family of the deceased to pay funeral costs.

"It is important that the fans know we are behind them," Pirates

captain Thabo Mngomeni said.

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