Football’s top 10 worst disasters

96 were killed and at least 200 injured in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 (AFP photo)96 were killed and at least 200 injured in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 (AFP photo)

While the world is still reeling from shocking footages of the Wednesday's football disaster in Port Said, Egypt, allow us to take a moment to revisit some of the worst football-related disasters in history.

10)       Heysel Football Stadium disaster

Date                 : May 1985

City                  : Brussels, Belgium

Death Toll        : 39

Reason            : Riot / Structural Collapse

At the height of British football hooliganism, Liverpool took on Juventus in the 1985 European Cup (now re-branded as Champions League) Final. Just before the kick-off, trouble was brewing between two set of fans, who were separated by a temporary chain link fence.

Once the game kicked-off, violence escalated. Liverpool fans charged towards the section of Juventus fans and caused a collapse of a perimeter wall. The wall crushed many hapless fans, taking the death toll to 39.

In the aftermath, the FA imposed an indefinite ban on English clubs in European competitions. English teams eventually returned five years later (six for Liverpool).

Heysel Stadium underwent a massive facelift and a name change (to King Baudouin Stadium) and hosted the opening game to Euro 2000.

9) Kayseri Atatürk Stadium disaster

Date                 : September 1967

City                  : Kayseri, Turkey

Death Toll        : 40

Reason            : Riot / Stampede

Mention Ataturk Stadium, and most people will remember the famous state-of-the-art ground in Istanbul, where Liverpool famously came back from 3-0 down to win the 2005 Champions League Final.

However, in 1967, a tragedy happened in a stadium of the same name in industrial city of Kayseri in the middle of Turkey.

Fans began to fight during half-time of a league game between home side Kayserispor and Sivasspor. Investigations revealed afterwards that many of the fans were armed with bats and knives.

As the violence spun out of control, the crowd fled and caused a stampede in front of the exits. A total of 40 lives were lost that day in what remained to be the worst sporting disaster in the history of Turkey.

8) Ellis Park Stadium disaster

Date                 : April 2001

City                  : Johannesburg, South Africa

Death Toll       : 43

Reason            : Stampede

Nine years before South Africa officially hosted the FIFA World Cup, 43 fans died in Ellis Park — a venue what would be eventually used in the 2010 World Cup.

It was a local derby game between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates and the fans packed the stadium to support their teams. A 60,000 capacity crowd were already seated in the stadium when a reported 30,000 more tried to gain entry (due to illegal ticketing and brides).

The crowd got out of control in the first half, when Orlando Pirates equalized and the fans outside of the stadium eagerly tried to push their way in to see what was happening.

A stampede occurred and 43 people died on the spot.

7) Bradford City Stadium (Valley Parade) Fire

Date                 : May 1985

City                  : Bradford, England

Death Toll       : 56

Reason            : Fire

The occasion was supposed to be joyous for Bradford City on a spring day in May 1985. The team had already won the promotion to Division Two of English Football (current day League Championship) and a capacity crowded gathered for their last game against Lincoln City.

The first half was about to come to an end when a small fire started at one end of the ground. It quickly spread and before long, fans panicked and headed towards the exits.

Police officers and some of the fans tried to put out the fire, but failed to find any fire extinguishers. Before long, smoke was everywhere and the game was immediately halted.

Both set of players, fans and policemen all joined in to help the fans but the fire took the lives of 56 fans that day.

After the fire, the FA banned the construction of all new wooden grandstands at all UK sport grounds. This incident is cited again as part of the Taylor Report, a set of regulations to modernize all football grounds throughout the UK.

6) (Second) Ibrox Disaster

Date                 : January 1971

City                  : Glasgow, Scotland

Death Toll       : 66

Reason            : Stampede

It was a cold January afternoon in 1971 when 80,000 fans packed into the terraces of Rangers' Ibrox Stadium in a traditional New Year's Day fixture against bitter rivals Celtic.

The home side trailed 1-0 for most of the game and minutes before the final whistle and fans began to make their way to the exits — a common practice for many fans. In the dying moments of the game, Rangers scored an equalizer, prompting ecstasy amongst the home fans.

But this spelled disaster as some fans who were already at the exits tried to turn back in hope of catching some of the action. A massive chain-reaction pile-up of people happened, causing the loss of 66 lives.

What was particularly tragic about this disaster was the loss of as many as five children, who had no chance when they were crushed by other adults.

Ibrox underwent massive reconstruction after the incident and after several phases of redevelopment, was awarded UEFA five-star status in the 2000s, as they continue to play home to Rangers.

5) Luzhniki Disaster

Date                 : October 1982

City                  : Moscow, Soviet Union (now Russia)

Death Toll        : 67 (official) 340 (unofficial)

Reason            : Stampede

This is somewhat a controversial incident in terms of death toll. Soviet media claimed that 67 had died in the incident, though unofficial estimates have put the death toll at 300 and above.

It was a UEFA Cup match between home side FC Spartak and visiting Dutch side HFC Haarlem. The Russians were leading 1-0 and minutes before the full time whistle, as fans were beginning to leave the ground, the home side found the net again and caused a pandemonium. Outgoing fans tried to return and were crushed against the flow of human traffic.

Under the communist Soviet government, the state media was highly controlled at that time and the full extent of the incident was not revealed until seven years later, when a sport magazine openly talked about the incident. There is still no official confirmation of the death toll till this date.

Today, the Luzhniki stadium is one of the best Moscow has to offer and it hosted the 2008 Champions League Final, where Manchester United edged out Chelsea on penalties. The stadium is also the centerpiece of Russia's successful bid for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

4) Port Said Disaster

Date                 : January 2012

City                  : Port Said, Egypt

Death Toll       : 79

Reason            : Riot / Stampede


A year may have past since the Revolution at the now famous Tahrir Square removed dictator Hosni Mubarak, but peace and national reconciliation is far from sight in Egypt.

Home side Al-Masry took on visiting Al-Ahly (from Cairo) in a league match and violence ensued right after the final whistle.

At time of press, investigations are still been carried out, but initial reports had suggested that "ultras" from Al-Ahly were primarily responsible as they initiated a pitch invasion and a full-blooded attack on opposing fans and players.

A total of 79 deaths had been reported thus far, most of them from clashing openly with various weapons inside the stadium. This number is expected to increase.

The immediate aftermath of this tragedy is the indefinite suspension of the 2011-12 Egyptian Premier League as the authorities grappled with how to improve the security of all football matches in the country.

3) Hillsborough Disaster

Date                 : April 1989

City                  : Sheffield, England

Death Toll        : 96

Reason            : Stampede

There is little doubt the Hillsborough disaster left a profound impact in football not just in England, but globally.

The setting was a FA Cup Semi-final between then-powerhouses Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in the neutral ground of Hillsborough.

The ground was already full when tens of thousands of fans still decided to try to make their way into the ground to see their teams in action. There was overcrowding near the turnstiles, as fans overwhelmed the security personnel on the way into the stadium.

As with many other stadia at that time, Hillsborough had fences around the stands to prevent pitch invasions. This turned out to be disastrous as fans were crushed against these fences by incoming fans.

94 fans died on the spot from crushing. One victim succumbed to injuries four days later, while another passed away four years later in coma, bringing the official death toll to a staggering 96.

The British government conducted an inquiry and the resulting report was known as the Taylor Report. This report set the standard for ground safety for all British stadia going forward, including forcing all the clubs to build all-seater stadiums.

Inevitably, this disaster left a deep scar in the football fraternity, especially Liverpool Football Club. Current club captain Steven Gerrard lost a cousin in this disaster and an annual memorial is held on 15th April for all the victims.

2) Accra Sports Stadium Disaster

Date                 : May 2001

City                  : Accra, Ghana

Death Toll        : 127

Reason            : Stampede

In a league game between two of Accra's most successful clubs, Accra Hearts of Oak Sporting Club and Asante Kotoko, the fans packed the Accra Sports Stadium.

Hearts of Oak trailed 1-0 throughout most of the game and came back strongly with two very late goals to win the match 2-1. This did not go down very well with the considerable away crowd, which started to pelt bottles and plastic seats onto the pitch.

The police immediately reacted to this by firing tear gases straight into the crowd and it caused panic and a stampede. 127 fans lost their lives that day when they tried to force their way out via the exits.

Subsequent reports revealed that medical staff had already left the ground and few were there to provide medical aid to the victims. The authorities also charged several police officers after the incident.

The stadium itself was rebuilt to meet FIFA standards afterwards and was renamed the Ohene Djan Stadium. This very ground hosted the Final of the 2008 African Cup of Nations.

1) Lima Football Stadium Disaster

Date                 : May 1964

City                  : Lima, Peru

Death Toll        : 328

Reason            : Riot / Stampede

The worst football disaster in history occurred in 1964, in the Lima Football Stadium.

It was the final qualifier for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and Peru was playing host to bitter rivals Argentina in the packed stadium.

Argentina was leading 1-0, when the officials ruled out a late Peruvian equalizer minutes before full time. Violence immediately ensued and objects were pelted onto the pitch.

Security forces at the ground reacted with tear gases into the stands and the crowd tried to disperse. However, stadium gates were locked and the fans were penned in, crushing one another in the panic.

The stampede took the lives of 328 fans that day and riots against the police and the government lasted several days afterwards in the streets of Lima.

Since then, the stadium had undergone several facelifts and renovations. The latest was concluded in 2011 as the capacity was reduced to slightly fewer than 40,000.