Saturday marks 19 years since the Ellis Park disaster in which 43 people were killed during a stampede at a soccer match between the two Soweto giants, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
Tragedy struck when at least 30 000 extra people tried to gain access to the 60 000 capacity Ellis Park Stadium, which was already full.
— Kaizer Chiefs (@KaizerChiefs) April 10, 2020
An equalising goal by then Orlando Pirates midfielder Benedict Vilakazi caused a surge in the stadium as fans outside scrambled to see the action. This resulted in a stampede that killed 43 people and left more than 100 others injured. The youngest victim of the tradegy was 11 years old.
Then PSL CEO Robin Petersen halted following the stampede and bodies were laid out on the pitch for identification.
According to SA History Online, police said that 120 000 people were inside the stadium, while thousands were outside waiting to gain access to the stadium. The fans accused both clubs of prioritising ticket sales over their safety.
The police were also blamed for failing to maintain order outside of the stadium.
South African soccer fans have taken to social media to pay tribute to the Ellis Park victims.
Orlando Pirates also paid tribute to the victims on social media.
— Orlando Pirates FC (@orlandopirates) April 10, 2020
Nomvethe pays tribute to victims
Former Kaizer Chiefs striker Siyabonga Nomvethe has also paid tribute to the victims on the soccer club’s website. He described the incident as a heartbreaking memory.
“It is one disaster that I will never forget. No one would have expected something like that to happen. I still can’t believe this happened in our lifetime; it is terrifying to remember that night…This unfortunate disaster was a demonstration of how much South Africans support their football and more specifically the Soweto Derby.”
Nomvethe says he could feel the turmoil from the stands after Vilakazi’s equalising goal.
“I could hear the turmoil from the stands after Pirates equalised. That is when I could notice that something unusual was happening from the stands. There was more than the usual noise from the crowd. It was the first time I saw the supporters jumping over the stands in an attempt to watch us from the touchline.”
Nomvethe says players were devastated by the incident.
“Days that followed were not life as usual. Going back to training was tough. But before that, I remember we joined the football fraternity to respect and give our support to the bereaved families. We visited and paid homage to the bereaved homes. I was still young, scared and horrified. As youngsters, we relied on senior players like Doctor Khumalo for consolation.”
RIP : To the 43 people who tragically lost their lives on the 11th of April 2001 in a stampede that broke out in a game between Kaizer Chiefs & Orlando Pirates at Ellis Park Stadium. May their souls rest in peace.#EllisPark43 pic.twitter.com/CiEzfcpKaz
— Mrs Kea M (@iam_kea_) April 11, 2020
Throwing it back to the opening game of the 1988 season between @KaizerChiefs and Jomo Cosmos at a packed Ellis Park Stadium. @DK15_official‘s sizzling run to the byline setting up a marvellous finish for Scara Thindwa that brought the Amakhosi crowd to a frenzy.
— Hunter 👑 (@JLMokwena) April 9, 2020
Most memorable and touching photo from the Ellis Park (11 April 2001) incident 😢
— ⚽ ⚽ ⚽⚽⚽⚽ (@Cafulele1) April 10, 2020
— Black Nubian (@noma_mnguni) April 11, 2020