20 Years on: Kaizer Motaung on Ellis Park disaster: 'A day that cannot be removed from memory'

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Ellis Park stampede: Irvin Khoza (L), Robin Petersen, Putco Mafani, Kaizer Motaung. (Gavin Barker/Gallo Images)
Ellis Park stampede: Irvin Khoza (L), Robin Petersen, Putco Mafani, Kaizer Motaung. (Gavin Barker/Gallo Images)
(Gavin Barker/Gallo Images)
  • Kaizer Chiefs boss Kaizer Motaung said the dark day of the Ellis Park disaster that took place on 11 April 2001 cannot be removed from his memory.
  • In what was the last midweek Soweto Derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates at Ellis Park, 43 fans went to the game, but never came home.
  • "This was a very dark day for South African football," Motaung said. 

Kaizer Chiefs chairman Kaizer Motaung said the Ellis Park stampede that claimed 43 lives on 11 April 2001 is a day that cannot be removed from his memory.

In a Soweto Derby Premier Soccer League match that was played during the week 20 years ago at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, the game was stopped in the first half as it became clear that a catastrophe was unfolding in the stands.

READ | Kaizer Chiefs through to CAF Champions League KO stage after sensational comeback

Tony Illodigwe had scored an early goal for Chiefs, but Pirates, who were the defending league champions that season, equalised through Benedict Vilakazi.

"Those of us who were there will always remember this day because it can never be removed from our memories because of what happened and what we saw. This was a very dark day for South African football," Motaung said.

"We've learnt a lot of things from that unfortunate occurrence of that fateful day. There were a lot of things that we had to change to ensure it never happens again."

Motaung was in attendance on the day and recalled the events with an aching heart. The tragedy led to the Ngoepe commission of inquiry that necessitated changes to how major South African sporting events, especially football, were attended.

Ellis Park, a 62 000-seater stadium situated in Doornfontein in Johannesburg and is well known as SA's home of rugby, hasn't hosted a Soweto Derby since then, while the big game has only taken place on weekends.

"Where I was seated, I could see there was commotion at one part of the stadium and that ultimately resulted in the stoppage of the game as security and everyone who was involved was called upon to attend to the situation. There was a stampede where people were forcing their way into the stadium," Motaung recalled.

"It is very sad that that beautiful day turned out to be a tragic day for many of the families because there were many people who died and there were many people who got injured."

Motaung, whose club qualified for the CAF Champions League playoffs for the first time in their history on Saturday, said the day must always be remembered and it must never happen again.

"This day belongs to those of us, the bereaved families and those who were injured. We wish them strength and those who lost their loved ones, they must remember we are always together with them on this day," Motaung added.

"We must always remember this day because it remains a black mark in our history. Every game we play, we should always remember them, especially if we do come to play at Ellis Park, which hasn't been the case recently. Hopefully, this will never happen again."

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