This was the worst football disaster on the African continent, with 127 souls perishing in a football stadium in 2001.
The day, May 9, has become symbolic with every football loving fan in Ghana and has been marked as the “darkest day” in Ghana’s football history.
The beautiful game of football, that many of the perished souls, had gone to enjoy only turned out to be a calamitous day.
The tragic incident occurred at the Accra Sports Stadium during a league match between Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko on Wednesday, May 09 2001. The police fired tear gas at some unruly fans, which led to unrest in the whole stadium.
A panic attempt by the close to estimated 45,000 people at the stadium, to run away from the dangers of tear gas at the same time caused a stampede, which killed 127 people and injured many more.
Mr Samuel Anokye, a 52 year old survivor of the disaster sums it all up in few words, “A day to forget, a day never to happen again”.
Mr Anokye recounted vividly but sorrowfully, his agony to the GNA Sports saying, he “i was only saved by God”.
The air-condition repairer gave an account of how he was considered as part of the dead souls by his family and loved ones.
Here is the a sad account of Mr Anokye in his own words
“I was there at the stadium and remember every incident vividly like it was yesterday. It was a very sorrowful and painful day. If you witnessed it like I did, you would have wept bitterly the whole of today.
“It wasn’t an easy sight to see people languishing to death.
“We were at the Ade Coker stand where it all begun. Some of the fans threw plastic chairs and other solid items like bottles, stones etc on the pitch after Kotoko had lost 2-1, because we felt cheated and the Police also wanted to stop us and started firing tear gas at our stand.
“So we all started running for our lives. And there were only three gates (exist points) at our stand. But when the Police fired the tear gas behind us and ahead of us, the two gates were blocked, so we were all forced to use the middle gate.
“When we got to the middle gate, we realised it was also locked and there was no way we could climb back, because there was a staircase you had to use to descend and ascend to the gate.
“Those of us who got there first and realised the gate was locked unfortunately couldn’t control the crowd descending to use that exit gate and the numbers kept surging down there and no one could control it. Before we realised bodies had piled up uncontrollably to fill the whole height (about 60 metres high) of the staircase so you can imagine.
“It was like hell, you could hear people screaming for help but there was no help coming and that was where the stampede begun. The broken plastics and bottles had also cut deep many people but because we were all taking actions on pulse, no one gave attention to it.
“Some also decided to scale that tall war and in fact do anything whether dangerous or not to save their lives. There was blood everywhere and scattered items as if it was a war zone,” he recounted.
“When i realised the situation was very scary for me and I decided to use one of the gates where the tear gas was fired at. At that point I said to myself that it was only way out, or I die. And that was how I escaped, even though I developed eye problem after that.
“I was outside the stadium when I saw officials opening the middle gate. Upon opening the gate I saw that many had died and others sustaining various degrees of injuries. I was part of the people that picked up the bodies which were sent to the 37 Military Hospital.
“Sadly I lost two friends who I had gone to watch the match with and another who survived but had multiple fractures in the left arm,” he narrated.
He said, “everybody knows how passionate I am about football and they know I am an ardent Kotoko supporter, who followed the team to watch them in every game, so when the media reported the incident, many people started calling me but unfortunately I had lost my mobile phone in the process. So my wife and family cried the whole night thinking I was dead because they couldn’t get in touch with me, but we were rather picking up bodies to be sent to the 37 Military hospital.
“I was only saved by God!.
“I got to the house around 0300hrs,that is when my wife and family realised I wasn’t dead.
“May 9, is a day I always try to forget, because it is not a pleasant memory at all,” he recounted.
Regardless of that I still love my football and my passion for it has not change at all. I go the stadium to watch football up till date.
The horrific experience I got is why I have dedicated myself to join Ghana National Supporters Union and lead in advocacy to advice supporters to desist from hooliganism at match venues.
He said, security officials must be responsible and take the necessary actions by arresting recalcitrant fans at match venues to deter others from repeating such actions. That can bring discipline at match centres.
“I would also appeal to supporters to take lessons from this tragedy,” He added.