Continuing the series that looks at those thankfully rare times in football history when fans went to a football match but never made it home afterwards.
Stadium disasters usually have their origins in human error. Poor stadium design or upkeep, inadequate policing or stewarding, and hooligan behaviour by a small element of fans . When Mothr Nature also gets involved as well, then the recipe for disaster may already be there.
Kathmandu Stadium Hailstorm Disaster
Although Nepalese football dates back to the early 20th century, it was the arrival of television in the 1980s which helped popularise the sport, with armchair fans able to see the best games and players from around the world.
It also awakened in them the desire to watch live games, which is why thousands gathered in March 1988 at the Dashrath Stadium in the capital Kathmandu, to watch the finals of the Tribhuvan Challenge Shield, the country’s most prestigious football tournament.
The match featured a team from Janakpur Cigarette Factory, and Mukti Joddha from Bangladesh.
At that time the terraces of the stadium were divided into sections which were separated by barbed wire, with small gates to allow passage to-and-fro. The ground was also surrounded by barbed wire to prevent illegal access, and, except for a small VIP area, all other sides were cement terraces without roofs.
With the weather uncertain at that time of year, the initial intention by the Nepalese Footba;; Association was to postpone the game, but when the forecasters predicted sunshine for most of the day, it was decided to go ahead with it anyway.
The match kicked off 20 minutes after the scheduled kick-off time, and then the Bangladeshi side took the lead. The locals began to roar their side on to find an equaliser, when suddenly all eyes turned to the sky, where a raging wind storm had suddenly blown up. Suddenly it began to hail very violently, trees were uprooted, and roofs flow off.
With large pellets of hail falling on them, those in the uncovered areas desperately tried to find shelter, but the doors had been locked to prevent those without tickers getting in, and there was no way out. Pandemonium broke out among the fleeing spectators, and that quickly led to a stampede.
The arrival of the police on the scene just made things worse, because just as people started to leave the most crowded aeras, they told them to stay where they were.
The players from the home side were among the last to leave the stadium, and what they saw looked like a scene from a hoor movie according to one of their players. Slippers and shoes of the dead and injured littered the terracing, which was otherwise deserted.
The final death roll was 93, with more than a hundred more injured, some of them seriously.
However, the government of Nepal paid not a cent in compensation to the victims, arguing that they were in the ground of their own free will and the authorities had played no part in what happened to them.
However, the sports minister and president of the All Nepal Football Association resigned on moral grounds.
Andy is an exiled English football fan living in Cyprus. He loves all sports but football is his abiding passion, and he still has dreams every now and then about scoring the winning goal in a Wembley Cup Final, even though his playing days are long gone. He follows most major leagues, across Europe at least, and has a favoured team in each. When he’s not watching, listening, reading or downloading podcasts about football, he spend his time worrying about his beloved Arsenal.