At least 19 people were killed and 132 wounded in a crush at a World Cup qualifying match here on Sunday.
Fans at the Félix Houphouet-Boigny arena pushed against each other shortly before the game between Ivory Coast and Malawi, setting off a panic that led to the stampede, interior minister Desire Tagro said on state television.
"They started pushing to get in because the match was about to start and every one of them wanted to get in," Tagro said. Police reportedly fired tear gas into one part of the crowd and part of a wall at the 45,000 capacity stadium in Abidjan collapsed during the crush.
Sports Minister Dagobert Banzio said that spectators who had not purchased tickets for the match had been "jostling" in the run up to the game. He said: "They smashed one of the main gates of the stadium. They were trampled." Ollo Kambire, a reporter for Super Sport newspaper, said a wall collapsed under the weight of the fans as they pushed forward. He said: "We saw people falling. Then there was panic and a stampede."
Fans began pushing and shoving 40 minutes before the match, which was still allowed to go ahead despite the stampede. Ivory Coast defeated Malawi 5-0.
Cut-price tickets had gone on sale for the game at the stadium in the West African country's largest city. Stampedes are common at Africa's crowded stadiums, especially at national events with security often inadequate.
GNS & Agencies