Crushed fans feared for their lives as 80,000 people tried to pack into the World Cup’s fan zone in Doha, Qatar, yesterday. The area in Al Bidda, central Doha, contains one big-screen television for viewing matches and has places to buy beer – making it a very popular option for fans.
Riot police armed with batons and shields had to be called in to keep the crowd crushed at bay.
They stood guard at the entrance and refused requests to let people in after the fan zone reached its capacity of 40,000 supporters.
MailOnline reports that the chaotic scenes left some fans fearing for their lives, especially after several high-profile crowd crushes in recent months.
They include the recent Halloween crowd crush in South Korea that saw 158 killed, a stampede that left 125 dead at a football match in Indonesia in October, and the infamous Astroworld crush, where 10 people died watching rapper Travis Scott perform in Houston, Texas.
Iraqi man Hatem El-Berarri, who said he was working in neighbouring Dubai, said: “It’s very risky. People, they could die.
“Old people, women, they cannot handle crowds like this. Thank God I’m a little bit tall, so I can breathe. But I saw some kids and said ‘get them up. They cannot breathe.”
He said he saw people pushing and shoving, and women crying.
Mr El-Berarri added: “My family is inside. I cannot enter to see them anymore. I don´t know what to do.”
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It is not yet known if anyone was injured or if police made arrests as a result of the chaos at the fan zone.
There was a similar situation on Saturday evening at a pre-World Cup concert as people tried to get into the same fan zone.
But not everyone was happy there was beer being sold at the fan zone, despite a last-minute u-turn from organisers, who banned selling alcohol inside stadiums.
17-year-old Mahdi Hussain, who could not get in to the fan zone, said: “That bothers me. I don´t want to be in an atmosphere where there is alcohol.”
But Samira Said, who moved to Qatar from Egypt about 25 years ago, said she was delighted that an Arab country is hosting the World Cup.
She said: “As an Arab, I felt honoured. I was happy.”
The World Cup continues today with England taking on Iran, Wales hoping to beat USA, and Senegal v Netherlands.