Disturbing Scenes as Qualifier Between Senegal and Ivory Coast Is Abandoned
With a little more than 14 minutes remaining in the second leg of the premier tie of the final round of qualifying for the African Cup of Nations, all seemed lost for Senegal against the Ivory Coast.
After a thrilling 4-2 victory in their home first leg, the Ivorians pulled away through a Didier Drogba brace during the first 71 minutes of Saturday's match in Senegal.
As Drogba stepped up to the penalty spot for his second, a fan ran onto the field before being subdued by security. Little did anyone know that this was just the start of the violence.
The impact of Drogba's penalty hitting the back of the net, as the aggregate 6-2 scoreline effectively ended the tie, seemed to ignite fury throughout the crowd. Suddenly, the home fans began starting fires and throwing missiles onto the field, prompting a majority of the Ivorian fans to jump the barricade and rush the pitch in an effort to avoid the violent scenes.
Within five minutes of the penalty, the match was halted and the players and fans escorted from the pitch by police, who were forced to fire tear gas into the crowd.
According to a student interviewed by the BBC:
Food, drinks and anything that could be thrown was being thrown on to the pitch, from all angles.
There were fires started from garbage and they (fans) were tearing the flags down, even their own, which was pretty disturbing.
We felt safer inside the stadium than outside, so we waited inside. When we left it was calming down though there was lots of tear gas.
No such statement was made by other Premier League clubs, but many players taking part in the match ply their trade in England's top flight. Such players include Newcastle's Demba Ba, Cheick Tiote and Papiss Cisse, Arsenal's Gervinho and West Ham's Mohamed Diame.
The African football governing body, CAF, have yet to issue a statement on the match, but the BBC has quoted a Senegalese official that indicated the team would be sanctioned by CAF.
My only hope is that the officials do not see fit to punish the players too harshly for the actions of their fans. However, the scenes were far too ugly to be ignored. In today's footballing world, such scenes cannot and will not be tolerated, as fans and supporters should never have to feel anxious about attending a match.
Let's just hope that none of the injuries sustained were too serious and that these "fans" (a loose usage of the term, seeing as a fan never turns on his own team or fails to respect an opponent's fine display) get the punishments they deserve.
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