One dead, dozens hurt in stampede before Iraq Gulf Cup final


Published: 2023-01-20 10:53

Last Updated: 2023-06-03 10:29

One dead, dozens hurt in stampede before Iraq Gulf Cup final
One dead, dozens hurt in stampede before Iraq Gulf Cup final

One person was killed and dozens injured Thursday during a stampede outside an Iraqi football stadium hours before the Gulf Cup final, officials said.

Long banned from hosting international football matches, war-torn Iraq had been counting on the Gulf Cup to burnish its image but it had already been forced to apologize for organizational lapses.

The final match was still able to take place Thursday night and ended in an Iraqi victory.

Thousands of fans, many without tickets, had earlier gathered outside the 65,000-seat stadium in Iraq's main southern city of Basra since dawn in the hope of watching the Iraq-Oman duel.

"There has been one death and dozens of slight injuries," a medic said.

An interior ministry official gave the same toll. "A large number of fans, many of them without tickets, had gathered since first light to try to get in," the official said.

An AFP photographer inside the stadium said the turnstiles were still closed when the crush occurred. Sirens blared as ambulances arrived to ferry the injured to hospital.

Images posted on social media showed a sea of people outside the stadium.

Fans began arriving again in the afternoon as calm was restored to Basra International Stadium, said interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan.

The gates were closed after fans entered the facility, many of them waving Iraqi flags ahead of the final match.

The home side triumphed 3-2 in extra time to win the tournament.

Throughout the country -- plagued by unemployment, corruption and decaying infrastructure -- the victory was a chance to celebrate, with honking car horns and fireworks.

In the capital Baghdad, hundreds of joyous people gathered at Tahrir Square waving their country's flag.

"We, the Iraqis, really needed to feel this joy," said Mansour Zamil, a supporter in Basra.