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Ghana marks 12 years of stadium disaster

Updated: 2013-05-10 09:44
( Xinhua)

ACCRA - A wreath-laying ceremony was held in Ghana's capital Accra on Thursday to mark the 12th anniversary of the stadium disaster which claimed the lives of 127 soccer fans in 2001.

The ceremony was attended by government officials, soccer loving fans, administrators and family members of the victims.

More than 127 soccer fans died on May 9, 2001, in a tragic incident at the stadium during a local premier league match between Ghana's two most successful football clubs, Accra Hearts of Oak and arch rivals Kumasi Asante Kotoko.

The police fired tear gas into the stands in their efforts to control rioting fans after Hearts overturned a one-goal deficit to lead 2-1, resulting in a stampede during which 127 fans lost their lives while attempting to escape.

Hundreds more fans were seriously injured during the incident described by aficionados of the game as Africa's worst ever stadium disaster and the world's third.

Addressing the solemn ceremony, Ghana's minister of Youth and Sports, Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah, said his outfit had not lost focus on the factors that contributed to the incident and had been working conscientiously to avert any such future tragedy.

He said peace was a necessary ingredient for development and must be pursued constantly to avoid complacency and the setting in of chaos.

"We must emphasize and strengthen the things that bind us together as a nation and confront divisive elements that set the stage for rancor," he said.

Afriyie-Ankrah said the burden and impact of events such as the May 9 disaster left lasting memories and negative effects on the victims' dependents and the populace long after the incident had occurred.

"It is therefore important for us to appreciate that even though we may belong to different ethnic, political and religious groupings, we should not allow our inclination to cloud our sense of judgment, especially with regard to the peace and stability of our country," Afriyie-Ankrah stated.

He pleaded with the supporters unions in Ghana to educate their members not to resort to violence and wanton destruction of property when they were in disagreement, but follow laid -down procedures for arbitration and redress.

"We must all be committed to ensuring that what happened in this stadium some years back will never happen again," the minister added.

The May 9 stadium incident affected the overall spectatorship to premier league centers across the West African country, with club officials grieving over low proceeds until the Ghana Football Association (GFA) employed a stadium insurance policy two years ago to provide cover to mitigate losses that might arise from such incidents and create a center of attention to fans.

A Muslim prayer session for the departed souls led by representatives of the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu, and officials of the two clubs was held at Nima, a community within the capital, which recorded most casualties.

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