A stampede of soccer fans before a World Cup qualifying match in Guatemala City kills 84 people and seriously injures more than 100 on this day in 1996.
The Guatemala national team was set to face off against Costa Rica on a Wednesday night in Guatemala City. Approximately 60,000 fans, most dressed in blue and white, the country’s traditional colors, came to the stadium, which has a capacity of only 45,000. Apparently, counterfeiters had sold thousands of fake tickets to the event.
Although the stadium was already full to capacity about an hour before the match was scheduled to begin, fans continued to push their way into the venue through a narrow passage. As those in front of them had nowhere to go, people began to be crushed and suffocated. Fist fights that broke out in the crowd exacerbated the situation, which ended in a panicked stampede.
Guatemala’s President Alvara Arzu witnessed the chaos from a box seat and called off the match. However, it was too late for 83 people, including many children. The bodies of the victims, some with their clothes torn off, lined the grounds of the stadium afterward as scores of injured received medical treatment.
Pope John Paul II sent a message of condolence to the relatives of the victims. President Arzu declared three days of national mourning. “What does football matter now?” said Guatemala’s head coach, Horacio Cordero.
The Guatemala City stampede was not unique; there were at least four stampedes at soccer matches that killed more than 40 people in the 1980s and 1990s.