Nigerian football authorities have refuted reports that a Zambian Confederation of African Football (CAF) official died of injuries sustained during a riot at Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier between Ghana and Nigeria.
The Nigerian Football Federation confirmed the death of the Zambian CAF official, Joseph Kabungo, in a statement March 29, 2022, but it said Nigerian newspaper reports that Kabungo died of injuries sustained from a beating and stampede are false.
NFF General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi said Kabungo was found gasping for air near a locker room as officials were testing players for illegal doping. He said the official was taken to a hospital, but died soon afterward.
NFF did not respond to VOA’s call for further comment, but the Football Federation of Zambia had earlier suggested that Kabungo died of possible cardiac arrest.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles crashed out of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, slated for November 2022, after losing to the Ghanaian team in Abuja on Tuesday.
Angry Nigerian fans invaded the pitch and vandalized facilities, while thousands of people scrambled to leave the stadium. Eyewitness Kelvin Sunday described the incident as chaotic.
“Immediately, the game ended. I saw people trying to jump over the barricade, trying to enter the main bowl itself. People throwing bottles of water and all of (that) stuff,” Sunday said.
Some observers said Nigeria losing the game was not the only trigger for the violence.
“Two days ago, there was an attack at the airport. Yesterday, another attack. Over 900 people were attacked. The match was supposed to be a moment of consolidation for Nigerians, but with this result, our tragedy continues,” said Busayo Tosin.
Sports experts and analysts said Nigeria could face serious sanctions for Tuesday’s unsportsmanlike behavior.
“While FIFA has not come out to say anything officially, they will definitely take a stand,” said Daniel Aderiye, a sports journalist and analyst at Nigeria’s National Television Authority. “One thing is certain: The fans will be banned following the whole violence. Besides, there will be fines — as much as 60,000 to 100,000 dollars.”
The 60,000-seat Moshood Abiola stadium was packed to overcapacity on Tuesday, with one estimate saying there were 100,000 people.