JOHANNESBURG (AP) - The Nigeria soccer federation said Monday it had no choice of venue for its exhibition match against North Korea at which a stampede left 15 people injured.
Taiwo Ogunjobi, the Nigerian federation's technical committee chairman, told website kickoff.com that "we had no choice" because "that was the only venue available to us" because "FIFA had taken control of all the stadia."
One policeman was seriously hurt Sunday during two separate fan rushes at the Makhulong Stadium outside Johannesburg.
Nigeria media officer Idah Peterside said that FIFA and World organizers were not responsible, adding the match "was Cup organized by the two FAs."
Soccer's international governing body said it had nothing to do with the ticketing. "FIFA and the OC (local organizing committee) would like to reiterate that this friendly match has no relation whatsoever with the operational organization of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, for which we remain fully confident,"
FIFA said in a statement. Several fans fell under the rush of people outside Makhulong Stadium in the Johannesburg suburb of Tembisa. The mayhem happened only five days before the start of the World Cup, the first to be held in Africa. Lt. Col. Eugene Opperman, a police spokesman, said tickets for the game were given out for free outside the stadium.
"What then occurred was large groups of people gathered outside the gates wanting to come in and wanting to get free tickets. Unfortunately in the process, the gates were opened and there was a stampede," Opperman said.
One fan, wearing a South Africa rugby jersey and bleeding from the head, said the rampaging crowd overpowered him.
"I fell down and people just fell over me," Japhta Mombelo said. "That crowd is overpowering. The police have told me to stay around and they will organize an ambulance but I am still waiting."
The first rush came when the gates opened to allow fans into the stadium. Police soon closed the gates, but when they were reopened, a second rush occurred, with more people falling and being run over.
"When we were coming in they were just stepping on us," said Princess Mbali, who was wearing a green South Africa shirt. "I thought I was dying. I was at the bottom."
Shortly after the second rush, the gates were closed again and much of the crowd dissipated. The injured policeman was bloodied in the crush and later taken away on a stretcher.
The stadium is nothing like those built or renovated for the World with gates and no turnstiles. "We have security plans that are there," police spokesman Col. Hangwani Mulaudzi said. "I think this is one of those isolated cases where we did not anticipate the large number of people who would be interested in this game."
Such chaos is not uncommon to soccer. Last year, FIFA fined Ivory Coast's federation $46,800 after 22 people died in a stampede at a World Cup qualifying match.