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FIFA asks for report on 19 Ivory Coast stadium deaths

ZURICH, Switzerland – FIFA on Monday asked for a full report into what caused a soccer stadium tragedy that killed at least 19 people in the Ivory Coast.

In addition to the deaths, 132 people were wounded on Sunday when the crowd stampeded before a World Cup qualifying match against Malawi in the capital Abidjan.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter sent a message of sympathy to the victims, and asked for a report from the Ivorian soccer association and city authorities.

“I wish to express extreme sorrow and extend our condolences to the Ivorian football community and, most importantly, to family, friends and loved ones following the tragic deaths in Abidjan yesterday,” Blatter said in a statement.

FIFA, soccer’s global governing body which organizes the World Cup, said it had asked for the reports “to establish the sequence of events that happened outside the stadium before the match.”

Ivory Coast state television reported that prime minister Guillaume Soro has convened an emergency cabinet meeting later Monday to discuss the incident.

The stadium was packed with spectators, many drawn to see star striker Didier Drogba return from England to play for his home country.

The crush set off a panic 40 minutes before kickoff. Witnesses said fans at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny stadium rushed toward the field, causing a wall to come down and setting off a stampede.

The match went ahead as scheduled. Ivory Coast won 5-0 with Chelsea striker Drogba scoring twice.

It was the first match in the final stage of African qualifying for the 2010 World Cup being played in South Africa. It also counted toward qualifying for the 2010 African Cup of Nations hosted by Angola next January.

Danny Jordaan, who heads the 2010 World Cup organizing committee, pledged on Monday that the problems which too often lead to stadium stampedes on the continent would not be an issue during the tournament. Jordaan said fans without tickets would be “stopped kilometers away.”

In June last year, 10 people died in an overcrowded stadium before a World Cup qualifying match between Liberia and Gambia.

The victims at the Samuel K. Doe Stadium in Monrovia suffocated when dozens of people fell from upper-level seats onto spectators below after a metal barrier gave way.

That match also went ahead after the tragedy.

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