Wednesday, October 16, 2013

16 October 1996 - Tragedy In Guatemala

On 16 October 1996, eighty-four people died and another 147 were injured in a stampede at the Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City.

They were there for a World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica. An hour before kick-off, the stadium was already filled past its 45,000 capacity, with supporters sitting on walls and on top of the press box, when the stampede began, sending a cascade of people down the stands toward the pitch. Most of the injuries and fatalities were due to asphyxiation, with others suffering broken bones.

Accounts differed as to the cause of the stampede. According to FIFA, forged tickets created an oversupply of people trying to force their way into the stadium, while a spokesperson for the Guatemalan government claimed that fans inside the stadium were trying to escape a brawl that had broken out in one of the general seating areas.

Guatemalan officials immediately canceled the game. FIFA banned the use of the stadium pending a  safety inspection, so when the game was eventually played in late November, it was held at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.

The stadium ban lasted approximately two years. When it reopened, it did so with a reduced capacity of 30,000.