PSL has no significant plan to commemorate Ellis Park disaster anniversary

Premier Soccer League chairman Irvin Khoza addresses the media at the League's headquarters in Parktown, Johannesburg, on April 9 2019.
Premier Soccer League chairman Irvin Khoza addresses the media at the League's headquarters in Parktown, Johannesburg, on April 9 2019.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

Premier Soccer League (PSL) chairman Irvin Khoza has confirmed that the League has not planned anything significant to mark Thursday’s 18th anniversary of the Ellis Park disaster.

Forty three supporters died and more than 150 were were injured in crushes at Ellis Park on Wednesday‚ April 11‚ 2001 during a Soweto derby between Pirates and arch rivals Kaizer Chiefs‚ as people poured into a stadium that was already past full to capacity.

It was South Africa’s biggest stadium disaster.

In the Orkney disaster of 1991‚ 42 supporters died as a result of an overfull Oppenheimer Stadium‚ where a crowd of 30‚000 was present but the ground had a capacity of 23‚000 at a preseason friendly between Chiefs and Pirates.

“There was a press conference that was held at the stadium some time back where we made a commitment to give the families some space to grieve‚” Khoza said.

“The Ellis Park disaster is an emotional one and we have not abandoned it but we did make a statement that we have done our part and that we did not give the families the chance to grieve.

“There is nothing stopping the two clubs from doing something but we have a challenge of the Klerksdorp [Orkney] disaster because we don’t want to prioritise one over the other.

“There is nothing stopping us from doing something and we must also remind the supporters that it is very important to arrive on time at the stadium.

“What happened at the match of Pirates and Chiefs at the Carling Cup [two supporters died ahead of the July 2017 preseason friendly]‚ something happened where we thought that it was late-coming [by fans] but there are organised gangs without tickets who target certain games. That matter could come up if the commission is going to take place.”

Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa has called off a ministerial commission of inquiry into the incident at the 2017 Carling Black Label Cup that also saw 21 people injured‚ but may reinstate it.

Khoza said the door is not closed on remembering the people who lost their lives in the Ellis Park disaster.

“It is only fair that we remember the people who died and if the families want us to join them in terms of remembrance it will make it easier for everybody‚ but some families want to do it separately.

“It is not only my decision but of my [PSL] executive committee member and Kaizer Chiefs owner-chairman Mr Kaizer Motaung as he was part of that press conference at Ellis Park.

“The door was never closed and we always recognise on the website in our small way‚ with prayer session at the club. But with the big one of the 20th anniversary‚ it is only fair that we remind ourselves that we must not lose any lives.

“I remember one of two incidents where we visited the stadium with Mr Motaung. Some of the fans were a family member from Zimbabwe who stayed in Hillbrow.

“When they got to the game‚ the wife went to the left and husband went to the right because one was supporting Pirates and one Chiefs. The interesting part is that at point they said‚ ‘Until we meet again’.

“One incident is of a supporter from Pretoria who said to his sister‚ ‘Here is my credit card to buy groceries tomorrow’‚ but he did not say why he was giving her his card to by food the next day.

“These are the experiences that sometimes you have to share them when we recall the passing of those who died.

"That matter will be revisited in the matter of 20 or 30 years anniversary to celebrate‚ because if we do it in intervals it affects other families‚ but we have to do it jointly as one big commemoration.”

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