- Well known Kaizer Chiefs fans, Freddie 'Saddam' Maake and Masilo Machaka, are joined by Dejan Miladinovic of Orlando Pirates as they remember the Ellis Park disaster
- 43 people perished at the match involving Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates at Ellis Park Stadium 20 years ago and the fans speak out
- The incident happened on April 11 in 2001 in a Soweto Derby match between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs at Ellis Park Stadium
As the South African football fraternity remembers the Ellis Park disaster that took place 20 years ago, Briefly News speaks to fans to commemorate the fateful day.
It was a league game between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs on April 11 2001 where 43 fans lost their lives in what was described as a stampede.
Amakhosi grabbed an early lead through Tony Illodigwe but the Buccaneers pulled one back courtesy of Benedict Vilakazi, just after the goal, things fell apart in what was the most tragic scene in Mzansi football.
Speaking exclusively to Briefly News, Chiefs famous supporter Freddie 'Saddam' Maake, Pirates’ Dejan Miladinovic, and Machaka Masilo of Amakhosi still remember the day as if it was yesterday.
“I was part of the game at Ellis Park as the chairman of Tembisa, we had 17 taxis to the game and we arrived safely. There were lots of people queuing outside and I didn’t know what was going to happen. Illodigwe scored for Chiefs and people screamed and pushed to get inside.
“Because we were inside, we could hear them properly in terms of what was going on. Vilakazi scored the equaliser and that’s when we started to see people trying to push and coming in. I thought the security guys opened the gates for them and when got to Gate 8, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Some people were lying down and some screaming, some with broken legs and it was a horrible scene.
“We went back and called the security to tell them that things are bad and we have to help. The game had to be stopped, Putco Mafani announced that people were getting injured and please remain seated where you are.
“We had to help, I was my family. My son, wife and daughter. I told them to sit in one place. The incident happened behind the Chiefs' goals.
“The SABC called me for an interview, I made it clear that people should start calling their family members, and then we can see who is missing and injured and so on. We had the biggest disaster in South Africa and I will never forget that.
“We lost five people from our branch and it was really sad. We couldn’t even recognise some of the people and I told some to get into the taxis, go home and I will stay here and see how I can help.
“It was confusing because there were bodies all over the place. We lost two members from Tembisa, one from Limpopo and another lady from Swaziland.
“The PSL played a major role in ensuring the bodies are identified and given a decent funeral. Each family member was given R15 000 and 25 buses for our branch members to go to the funeral. I didn’t want to get involved with the money issues.
“The PSL tried especially Kaizer Motaung and Irvin Khoza, people quickly forget we also had that incident at Orkney – I was there.
“Everyone who passed away, their names are there at the entrance of the Ellis Park Stadium. Most of the supporters that passed on were from the Chiefs side and may their souls rest in peace.”
According to the Buccaneers supporter, Miladinovic recounts his side of the story, saying he will never forget that incident. Miladinovic told Briefly News:
“It was very sad to experience that disaster. I am from Berea in Johannesburg and very close to the stadium, I was surprised to see so many fans.
“I expected a fantastic game because I didn’t know what was going to happen. That was a tragic moment for our football and I was shocked to see some of them with no tickets. I also remember that Ellis Park was made to carry 50 000 fans but I could tell there were 100 000 inside already.
“I was surprised and I remember I was sitting behind the Pirates goals, we were separated back in the day. The atmosphere was good and the first goal by Chiefs gave us hope that we will come back and we managed to score through Vilakazi.
“I saw after the goal that the stampede was happening. It was very sad and I decided to go to the field and it was sad to see the stands getting empty and the bodies lying there on the field.
“I also got calls from my friends and some saw me on television. I think Putco did a good job using his microphone. He was very calm and smart on that day. I cannot forget that for the rest of my life.”
Machaka joined in on the conversation and also reminisced on the day that engulfed South African football. He told Briefly News:
“It was a bad day and when we approach the 11th of April, we all know that was a sad day. We don’t expect to lose our lives or get injured when we go to the games.
“However, that game didn’t go well after Vilakazi’s goal. That thing happened on our side as Chiefs fans. Pirates were on the north side and we lost our fans – it was painful.
“That tragedy will always be part of our football. It was my first time seeing that as I have been attending games. What pains me the most is that there’s nothing done on the 11th of April to remember these heroes.
“These were the breadwinners, family members and parents. They died for these two clubs and it’s sad. I think there should be something done to remember them.
“You can tell the families are not over this tragedy but we as the supporters have to be united and see to it how can we commemorate that day. It’s 20 years now but we can’t forget it.
“That day is like our birthdays, nobody can forget his big day. The supporters were badly affected because the Soweto derby attracts people from as far as Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland. We are glad to get this opportunity and talk to your website and remember and our fallen friends all in the name of the game.”
This website reported that on 11 April 2001, the country witnessed its most horrific sports accident to date. According to South Africa History Online, 250 were injured as fans stormed an already overcrowded stadium during a match between the two South African rivals.
Briefly News gathered 43 people were trampled to death during the stampede, 29 of whom died on the scene while a further 14 passed away later as a result of injuries sustained during the incident.
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