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At least 15 hurt in stadium stampede

At least 15 people were injured on Sunday when fans tried to push their way into a local stadium to watch a pre-World Cup match between Nigeria and North Korea only five days before the tournament gets underway.

world Updated: Jun 07, 2010 10:01 IST

At least 15 people were injured on Sunday when fans tried to push their way into a local stadium to watch a pre-World Cup match between Nigeria and North Korea only five days before the tournament gets underway.

The stampede was triggered mostly by Nigeria supporters, holding what police said were photocopies of tickets, trying to push their way into the 10,000-seater Makhulong stadium after the game had started, a Reuters witness said.

The incident marred a day when more fans and teams flew in to South Africa which hosts the month-long football jamboree, the world's most watched sporting event, from Friday (June 11).

It is the first time the 80-year-old tournament has been held in the continent.

The police officer sustained serious injuries when fans pushed the gate on to him in their effort to enter the stadium to watch the match between the two World Cup participants.

There was no immediate word about his condition. "He was crushed by the gates as people stormed them, trying to get in," a police official at the scene told Reuters.

Among those injured were at least two children, according to a Reuters witness. Nigeria won the match 3-1.

A statement from the sport's governing body, FIFA, stressed that the match was not staged under its auspices and said it was still "fully confident" about its organisation for the World Cup.

TEAM INJURIES

With the arrivals of teams in full swing, competing nations were grappling with their own problems. The Dutch made a bad start to their campaign when they arrived in South Africa without injured winger Arjen Robben but a scan revealed the damage was not as bad as feared.

Robben joined a growing list of injured top players, including Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba, Nigeria's John Obi Mikel and England's Rio Ferdinand, when he pulled a hamstring in a friendly against Hungary on Saturday.

"I decided not to call up a replacement to give him the chance to recover and get back in the squad during the tournament," coach Bert Van Marwijk said.

Honduras midfielder Wilson Palacios was rated doubtful after injuring a groin muscle during a 3-0 defeat to Romania on Saturday.

Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar will miss his first international for two years when he sits out Monday's friendly against Tanzania due to a back injury.

Germany have suffered many injury setbacks but headed off on their African adventure brimming with confidence, boarding a huge Airbus A380 plane bound for Johannesburg.

Coach Joachim Loew said the country's youngest World Cup team in 76 years was in top form despite a string of injuries that have also ruled out captain Michael Ballack.

"We are going into this tournament well prepared," Loew said. "I have full confidence in the quality of our team." France moved into their luxury hotel on the scenic Western Cape coastline, triggering the ire of the country's sports junior minister.

"Personally I would not have chosen that hotel," junior minister Rama Yade said.

"I had asked football authorities to show decency. In times of crisis, you need to think about it. If the team's results do not meet our expectations, the federation will have to account for this," she added.

FEAR NOBODY

South Africa sounded a confident note as they sought to dispel fears their team's performance could be the worst by a host nation in the World Cup's 80-year history.

"Everyone has to respect us and we fear nobody," said coach Carlos Alberto Parreira as he looked ahead to a last week of preparation, his team having beaten the Danes 1-0 on Saturday.

"I believe the team has shown itself ready for the World Cup. We will go into the tournament with confidence and now we can start to dream about a position, about achieving something," the former World Cup winner said.

Off the pitch, the country's President Jacob Zuma expected the June 11-July 11 tournament to have a unifying effect for the host nation, unseen since the 1990 release of former President Nelson Mandela.

"The enthusiasm, joy and excitement that has engulfed the entire nation in recent weeks has not been witnessed since President Nelson Mandela was released from prison," Zuma said.

"This explosion of national pride is a priceless benefit of the World Cup tournament."