Yaounde, Cameroon – Previously Veronique Djiloc on her way to Olembe Stadium to watch Cameroon – nicknamed the Indomitable Lions – take on the Comorian Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), she updated her WhatsApp status as “Lion 4 Life”.
And that was the last time her cousin, Leokam, with whom she lived, heard from her.
Djilo, a 41-year-old woman living with a disability, was one of eight people killed in a rush which took place outside the Olembe Stadium, in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde, in which the hosts beat the Comoros 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals of AFCON.
Security officers apparently slow down let fans enter through the south entrance of the 60,000-seat venue at the gate before a crowded hallway developed as impatient fans tried to enter the stadium.
Tournament organizers said only 80 percent of the stadium capacity would be made available for fans who want to watch Cameroon’s matches and 60 percent for other teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But officials said about 50,000 fans tried to enter the stadium during the game.
At least 38 people were also injured during the stampede, according to a statement from Cameroon’s Ministry of Communications.
Leokam told Al Jazeera she had received a call telling her that Dilje was seriously injured and was being treated at a hospital in Messassi, a suburb near Olembe.
“When I went there, she was already dead. I was wondering, how can someone who has left home to enjoy [football] did not return home in the stadium? ”
“Her body is still with the police who are investigating the incident. She was my mother, my everything, because she took care of my education and well-being, ”Leokam said.
The incident at the brand new stadium shocked the football community.
Patrice Motsepe, president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), said in a news conference on Tuesday that the institution was devastated by the stampede and called for an investigation.
“The CAF family was deeply hurt,” he said. “We have a duty to find out exactly what happened and more importantly to put in place appropriate measures to ensure that what happened never happens again. When people lose their lives, we should all be angry. ”
CAF also said a quarter-final held at Olembe Stadium would be moved to another venue. The stadium was scheduled to host three more matches, including the final.
The deaths have left Cameroonian football fans deeply upset, with some saying they no longer feel safe attending matches.
Therese, who survived the crush, told Al Jazeera: “Next time I see a crowd, I’ll change direction.”
Samuel, who is a motorcyclist and a die-hard Indomitable Lions fan, has already stopped attending stadiums due to the behavior of some fans – including once when he was urinated.
“The incident at Olembe only reminded me not to attend matches. The AFCON is good, but I prefer to watch at home. ”
Meanwhile, others said they would still be willing to attend matches.
“What happened at Olembe was just a pity,” Paul, a shopkeeper, told Al Jazeera.
“If I have the chance to watch a match in the stadium during this period, I will go. We just have to be careful and I believe COCAN (the local organizing committee) and CAF will improve safety and security. ”
But although CAF said the tournament would continue as scheduled and that all matches would have a minute of silence for the people who lost their lives, Paul believed the matches should be stopped for at least a week.
“These are people who have lost their loved ones. “CAF must stop these matches to honor the grieving families,” he said.