Soccer News of Saturday, 25 November 2000

Source: Reuters

African Women's Cup Final Abandoned After Riot

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 25 (Reuters)(DS) - The African women championship final between hosts South Africa and Nigeria had to be abandoned in the second half after a riot broke out at the Vosloorus Stadium near Johannesburg on Saturday. Riot police, who arrived 40 minutes after the trouble started, fired tear gas at the crowds and fought running battles with youths who were throwing bottles at them.

Before that spectators threw bottles and other objects at match officials and at the Nigerian players after Nigeria had taken a 2-0 lead midway through the second half. Police said at least five people were injured as South African fans fought with Nigerian supporters in the crowd. Police had to carry several children, who were caught up in the fighting, to safety.

Fans continued to throw objects on to the pitch for at least 30 minutes after the game was stopped, despite appeals for calm from Gauteng premier Mbazima Shilowa. The match was eventually called off and the trophy awarded to Nigeria. The 35,000-capacity stadium was overflowing for the match between the two African superpowers. Officials attempted to close the gates three hours before the kickoff to limit the number of spectators.

"This is a very sad day for football in both Africa and South Africa," said Molefi Oliphant, president of the South African Football Association. He also criticised police for lack of control.

ANALYSIS: Shocking End To The Women's Championship

from African Soccer Magazine
Nigeria's Super Falcons have rightly been proclaimed African champions, but what a shocking end to the second Women's Nations Cup.

It had promised to be a dream final, pitching the South African hosts against the defending champions, ranked fifth in the world after the 1999 Women's World Cup in the US. But the girls' game had a rare taste of violence when the match was abandoned with 28 minutes to play.

The trouble started, in a packed Vosloorus Stadium, with South African supporters hurling stones and bottles onto the pitch after Nigeria's second goal scored by Stella Mbachu. The crowd protested (wrongly) that the goal should have been disallowed because an injured Nigerian player had been lying in an offside position. Olaitan Yusuf had opened the scoring in the 31st minute.

Riot police fired tear gas and fought running battles with youths. Several people were hurt as South African fans fought with Nigerian supporters in the crowd, while police carried children caught up in the fighting to safety.

The game was eventually abandoned and Nigeria were awarded the trophy after dominating the match: South Africa had never seriously threatened the Falcons' goal, and Nigeria had already had two goals disallowed.

It was an embarrassing end to the competition, which is only in its second edition. But the tournament had been dogged by difficulties long before Saturday's debacle.

At the outset, teams were transferred from the hotel booked for them to other accommodation after the Nigerians protested the lodgings provided did not meet CAF requirements. Later on, several teams complained of food poisoning and Ghana queried the organisers for not providing video tapes of the other matches.

CAF has promised an investigation into Saturday's crowd trouble, and extra care will undoubtedly be taken when South Africa hosts the Cosafa regional Under-20 championship, which kicks off on December 3. If that goes smoothly, the events should not do too much damage to South Africa's future bids to host more international events. But the organisers will still have some tough questions to answer about the poor security in the stadium.

For the women's game, the battle of Johannesburg is a bitter pill to swallow. Nigeria's success in the US gave women's football a huge boost across the continent, with organised local leagues springing up and talk even of an African club competition.

But interestingly, violence is not as rare as one might expect in the women's game. Before the civil war escalated in Sierra Leone, the trouble at football grounds took place in the women's national league - it happened almost on weekly basis.

The difference between what happened in Sierra Leone then, and events in Johannesburg, is that it was unexpected and shocking way to end a continental championship.

Africa's top football feast for women has been ruined, but after 60 goals in one tournament, worthy champions have been crowned. For the Falcons, at least, there is something to celebrate.