The Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) has expressed sadness over the death of some football fans in Calabar, who were electrocuted while watching Europa League quarter-final game on Thursday. Police confirmed at least seven were killed but officials fear the toll could be far higher after the tragedy in Nigeria, with many more said to be critically injured as an electric cable from a high tension installation fell on the viewing centre where they were watching the match between Manchester United and Anderlecht.
The world football body wrote on its Twitter handle on Friday:
“FIFA is deeply saddened by the deaths of several football fans in Calabar and offer our deepest condolences to family and friends of the victims.”
A Nigerian twitter user send the tweet to news outlets.
Manchester United has also commiserated with the families of the dead fans. Following the horrific accident in Calabar, Man United tweeted their condolences:
Our thoughts go out to the United fans, their friends and families affected by the tragedy in Calabar, Nigeria, yesterday. pic.twitter.com/WGnHAxpjMV
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 21, 2017
Cross Rivers State Governor Ben Ayade said:
“It was heart-wrenching that the lives of the young men were lost through electrocution.”
One man tweeting from Calabar reported that the live electricity cable broke from its mooring and fell on the viewers. He also provided the specific location of the accident:
FollowUwemedimo Ekeng @Eb_Ekeng
High tension drops, kills over 30
who were watching MANUTD Vs
in a building along Akpandem Street, Atimbo calabar
Manchester United won the match 3-2 aggregate, and qualified for the semi-finals, with Marcus Rashford netting the winner in the 107th minute. As many as 80 supporters are believed to have been crammed inside the building for the extra-time win.
United will face Spanish side, Celta Vigo, in the semi-finals, while Ajax of Netherlands will meet Lyon of France.
Owning a football viewing centre has proved to be quite a rewarding and popular enterprise in Nigeria. This is more especially so during European football seasons when numerous fans throng the viewing centres on weekends or selected weekdays to relax and catch a glimpse of their favourite footballers – from Lionel Messi to Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard to Paul Pogba.
Regretably, few owners of these viewing centres take safety precautions necessary when gathering a horde of people.
The safety of patrons should also get prominence in light of recent unfortunate events at viewing centres. On October 15, 2016, Leicester City-fan Nasiru Yahaya, 28, viciously stabbed his friend, Aliyu Saidu, a Chelsea fan, at a viewing centre in Hausawa area of Madalla, Niger State. According to a witness, the duo placed a bet on which of the two sides would emerge victorious from the encounter and Chelsea triumphed, but Yahaya refused to release his bet money. This led to an argument, then a fight and finally Saidu’s stabbing. The witness said Yahaya ran into a nearby shop, carried a bottle, broke it and stabbed his friend on his hands and back.
On 30th April 2014, a 29-year-old Saheed Badmus went to a viewing centre on Lamina Street, Egbe, Lagos State, to watch the UEFA Champions League semi-final match between Chelsea Football Club and Atletico Madrid, little did he know that was the last match he would ever watch.
It was learnt that the graduate of Ekiti State Polytechnic was stabbed to death by a barber identified only as Yemi, during an argument that broke out at the viewing centre.
It was reported that passions were high at the viewing centre as most of the Chelsea fans were desperate to see their team qualify. It was learnt that during the match, Saheed stood up and Yemi shouted at him and told him to sit down as he was blocking him from viewing the match on the screen.
It was learnt that as Saheed ran for his life, Yemi chased him and then stabbed him in the face. When some of the viewers came out, they saw the deceased’s lying in a pool of blood. He however was pronounced dead by the time he was taken to Igando General Hospital.
In 2008, a Manchester United supporter, Christopher Udoh, macheted his Chelsea-supporter bosom friend, Elerus Patrick to death in Ijanikin, Lagos over an argument about the two rival clubs. The media reported at the time that Udoh’s action was a retaliatory act, after Patrick hit him with a log of wood. The victim was said to have become unconscious after he was macheted and was rushed to a private hospital, but died on the way.
Against this backdrop, priority attention ought to be given to safety measures when setting up a viewing centre. Just as the pleasure derived from watching a game of football game cannot be denied, safety precautions should also not be compromised.
A football viewing centre, the likes patronized in Nigeria, could be classified to an events centre; they are seen as complex activities that require knowledge and good planning, and it is very important that planning for safety, health and security forms the part of the overall planning of setting up such viewing centres. Planning for safety must begin simultaneously with all other planning.
Football as a sport has been one of the most followed and talked about in Nigeria, and it is supported by young and old, male and, to a lesser degree, female, with teams like Chelsea, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester united and Barcelona boasting many followers in the country. As many of these ardent fans cannot travel to physically watch their favourite teams play because of the financial implications, they are confined to watching them on television in viewing centres.
With the rate of football fans trooping into various viewing centres, many owners of these viewing centres have yet to take into consideration the various safety precautions that can forestall wanton loss of lives and properties when tensions rise, as they usually, regrettably, do.
Basic safety hazards in a viewing centre
Owners of viewing centres appear unmindful of what may happen when accidents occur as their customers are glued to the television sets rooting for their favourite teams.
Most viewing centres in Nigeria have just one exit, which also serves as the entrance, not bearing in mind what might happen should that exit be inaccessible in case of an unforeseen incident. Emergency exit is seen as a special exit which allows for faster evacuation, and provides an alternative if the route to regular exit is blocked by any occurrence.
Bad construction/Inappropriate building materials
The use of trampoline in viewing centres is significantly dangerous. We also see the use of planks in constructing such centres which is likely to cause huge amount of damage should there be a fire outbreak. There are also no parameters being set aside on the basic standard or kind of structure to be constructed when setting up such viewing centers.
Poor or No Ventilation
Poor ventilation in some viewing centres could lead to health problems for occupants, architecture experts have warned. A lack of air vents or open windows leads to a build-up of pollutants and chemicals from furniture.
Due to poor supply of electricity in Nigeria, generators have become a major source of power. Major viewing centres powering their business with generators do not take cognizance of the fumes that come from the generators, which are known sources of air pollution. The air they release is toxic to human health.