Banter, celebrations, and unwavering dedication –sports fans are some of the most passionate people in the world.
With emotions running high in the audience, sometimes, things can get out of control.
Sports riots are not a common sight at modern sports events, but there are some instances where rowdy fans have taken the situation to the next level.
Here are the most insane sports riots ever recorded in history.
9. Butembo, Congo
When: 14 September 2008
Where: Nord Kivu province, Butembo, Congo
The 2008 riot in the province of Nord-Kivu in Butembo, Congo is one of the craziest sports riots not just because of the violence that took place but also because it was sparked by accusations that a player used witchcraft.
A commotion between the players turned into a brawl after the home team, Socozaki, accused the goalkeeper of Nyuki System, which was leading 3-0, of casting a “spell” to turn the game around.
When a police commander intervened, spectators started to throw stones at him. This prompted the police at the game to fire canisters of tear gas into the crowd, which triggered a stampede.
The Congo government later reported that 13 people were killed and 36 injured.
8. Kinshasa, Congo
When: 11 May 2014
Where: Kinshasa, Congo
Reason: Fan rivalry
In 2014, the Republic of Congo was the home of yet another deadly sports riot.
This one took place in Kinshasa, at the end of a heated match between ASV Club and Tout Puissant Mazembe. The match saw the guest team clinch the league title, which sent the fans into a frenzy.
ASV fans started throwing projectiles at the field in the 87th minute, which prompted a temporary halt of the game. After a brief pause, the fans continued to throw objects at each other, which eventually prompted the police to fire tear gas.
Fans, blinded by the gas, ran in different directions, as many tried to leave the stadium. The chaos even led to the collapse of a wall. A total of 18 people lost their lives in the stampede, which is a frequent occurrence at riots after sports events in Congo, and 24 people were injured.
7. Oppenheimer Stadium Disaster
When: January 13, 1991
Where: Oranjemund, Namibia
Reason: Dubious goal
The riot that broke out at the Oppenheimer Stadium in Oranjemund, Namibia is one of the worst soccer riots in South African history, with 42 deaths.
The pre-season-friendly game took place at the 23,000 seater Oppenheimer Stadium. However, at least 30,000 spectators were let into the stadium, and fans were not separated by teams, as they usually are nowadays.
The riot started after the Kaizer Chiefs’ striker Fani Madida scored the leading goal, which many fans thought was dubious. According to reports, Pirates fans turned violent and attacked rival supporters. They threw cans and other objects, and some reportedly had knives.
As fans tried to escape the brawls, they were crushed to death against riot-control fences.
6. The Heysel Stadium Disaster
When: May 29, 1985
Where: Brussels, Belgium
Reason: Fan rivalry
The Heysel Athletics Stadium in Brussels was the site of one of the most brutal riots in sports history.
The violence erupted between English and Italian football fans prior to the start of the European Cup Final between one of the most successful clubs in Europe, Liverpool and Juventus.
A group of Liverpool fans breached a fence that separated them from a neutral area containing Juventus fans. As the Juventus fans fled, they were crushed together in a section of the terrace that was shut in by a concrete retaining wall. The wall eventually fell, which allowed some fans to escape to safety, but others died and some were badly injured.
A total of 39 people died and around 600 were injured. The tragedy prompted the Union of European Football Association to ban all English football clubs from European competition, which was lifted 5 years later.
5. Port Said Stadium
When: 1 February 2012
Reason: Fans’ rivalry
The mass riot at the Port Said Stadium, Egypt happened after the Egyptian Premier League football match between al-Ahly and al-Masry.
After Ahly’s 3-1 victory, thousands of al-Masry spectators, carrying stones, fireworks, clubs, and bottles, stormed the stands and the field.
The police at the match did not intervene. Instead, they closed the doors of the stadium as al-Masry fans attacked al-Ahly spectators, who couldn’t escape the stadium.
The melee resulted in the death of 75 people. More than 500 were injured during the 20-minute frenzy.
4. The Hillsborough Tragedy
When: 15 April 1989
Where: Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England
The Hillsborough tragedy was a fatal human crash that has the highest death toll in the history of British sports.
The disaster occurred during the FA Cup semi-final match between the Reds and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.
In an effort to ease congestion outside the entrance, a police commander ordered one of the exit gates to be opened, which caused an influx of supporters to enter the pens. The side pens were largely empty but most of the fans headed to the main tunnel, which resulted in a deadly crush.
The incident led to a number of safety improvements in football stadiums. In 2016, an inquest jury finally ruled that the 96 fans had been “unlawfully killed,” and laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of the police.
3. Ohene Djan Stadium disaster
When: 9 May 2001
Where: Accra, Ghana
Reason: Fan rivalry
On May 9, 2001, two of Ghana’s biggest soccer rivals faced off in the Accra derby.
When Accra Hearts of Oak eventually won the match against Asante Kotoko, fans started throwing bottles and plastic seats at the pitch. In order to take control of the situation, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, which made the situation worse.
Spectators ran for the exits at the stadium, but with some gates locked, the stadium’s compromised design left a bottleneck, which resulted in a stampede.
More than 110 people died of asphyxiation and a dozen from trauma. The death toll was 126, making it the worst stadium disaster in African history.
2. Estadio Nacional
When: May 24, 1964
Where: Lima, Peru
Reason: Disallowed goal
The Estadio Nacional Disaster, also known as the Lima Disaster, is widely considered to be the worst stadium disaster in football, which has an official death toll of 328.
Fans started rioting after the match between Argentina and Peru. Peru needed a win to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics but they lost the match after the referee disallowed a goal by the Peruvian team.
When the match ended, enraged Peruvian fans invaded the pitch. The police responded by firing tear gas canisters, which caused panic among the spectators and a mass exodus. The fans who were leading the lead were crushed against the steel shutters at the bottom of tunnels that led to the streets.
The shutters eventually opened from the pressure from the crush of the bodies.
1. The Nika Riots
When: 532 AD
Reason: Execution and captivation of fans/members of chariot racing teams
The Nika Riots were a series of violent riots that took place in Constantinople in 532 AD. They were the most violent riots in the history of the city, with an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 deaths (around 10% of the city’s population) and nearly half of Constantinople destroyed.
The riots started at a race in the Hippodrome where the crowd, rival fans of the Blues and Greens, called on Byzantine Emperor Justinian I to pardon two men, one Blue and one Green, for actions committed in a previous riot.
The fans at the Hippodrome eventually started chanting “Nika,” which means “conquer” broke out and began to destroy and vandalise Justilian’s palace, which was next to the Hippodrome, and kept it under siege for 5 consecutive days.
Famous sports events are often places where fans find like-minded individuals, watch their favourite teams battle it out on the field, and engage in a little bit of banter with supporters of the opposing teams.
However, with tensions in the crowd and on the field, incidents are almost inevitable and they sometimes lead to disastrous sports riots, some of which have, unfortunately, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of fans.
The silver lining is many of these tragedies have brought positive changes in stadiums, in terms of security and crowd control measures.