Iraq: Deadly Stampede Outside Basra Soccer Stadium

On Thursday, the Iraqi government announced that a stampede outside Basra International Stadium killed at least four people and left around 80 critically injured.

Iraq: Deadly Stampede Outside Basra Soccer Stadium
Image credit: AFP [via Sputnik News]

Facts

  • On Thursday, the Iraqi government announced that a stampede outside Basra International Stadium killed at least four people and left around 80 critically injured.
  • Though Basra Gov. Asaad Al Eidani, warned people without tickets not to flock to the stadium, videos shared on social media showed a sea of people gathered outside hoping to watch the country host its first international soccer match in four decades.
  • The stampede reportedly broke out when tens of thousands of fans, arriving from throughout the Gulf region, were told that around 90% of the tickets were sold out ahead of the match.
  • Iraq is hosting the eight-nation Arabian Gulf Cup for the first time since 1979. The home team was set to face Oman in the final, however, the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation is now considering either postponing the match or moving it to another country.
  • Official Iraqi media reported that giant screens were placed in various public places in Basra to allow fans, mainly from the Gulf states, to watch the match.
  • The stampede comes after another incident occurred at the tournament's opening match, in which commotion was reported in the "VIP" fan section causing a Kuwaiti prince to leave the match.

Sources: Al Jazeera, Metro, Sputnik, Reuters, and ABC.

Narratives

  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by LSE. The tragedy exposes Basra's decades-old woes. The Iraqi southern city was the battleground for most of Baghdad’s Western-imposed wars for years, which affected infrastructure and economic resources. More recently, it suffered from unemployment, lack of water supply, security vacuums, and regional conflicts. Though its security infrastructure issues aren't the sole fault of the Iraqi leadership, the tenuous governance structure should have been more prepared.
  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Arab Center. The government couldn't have predicted this chaotic stampede. This is deeply disappointing as Iraq fought against all odds to improve its regional image through sports events like these. A successful end to the Arabian Gulf Cup could have boosted Gulf tourism to Basra and improved current Iraq-Gulf State relations, but unfortunately, the tragedy tarnished the country's image only a few hours before the final ceremony.