Equatorial Guinea fined $100K for crowd violence

AP News
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Posted: Feb 06, 2015 2:59 PM
Equatorial Guinea fined $100K for crowd violence

BATA, Equatorial Guinea (AP) — Equatorial Guinea's football federation was fined $100,000 on Friday after at least 36 people were injured when angry home fans threw bottles and rocks and clashed with riot police during their team's semifinal loss at the African Cup of Nations.

The Confederation of African Football also ordered Equatorial Guinea to pay for the treatment of all the people injured in the ugly scenes on Thursday at Malabo Stadium.

The match was halted for over 30 minutes late in the second half as Ghanaian fans fled the missiles being thrown at them, forced open a gate, and ran onto the field to huddle for safety behind one of the goals.

Riot police fired tear gas at Equatorial Guinea fans, and a helicopter hovered dangerously low over the stands, whipping up debris as authorities tried to restore order. The Ghana fans were escorted out of the stadium by security for their own safety.

Of the 36 people injured, 14 were taken to the hospital, CAF said. One person required "close monitoring," but CAF gave no more details.

Although the Ghana players and officials were also targeted with bottles when they left the field at halftime, there were no reports they were among the wounded, which were believed to be mainly supporters.

Still, the Ghana Football Association said the stadium became like "a war zone" for its fans, players and officials.

Ghana dominated and won the semifinal 3-0, while host Equatorial Guinea's biggest ever soccer match ended up being a major embarrassment for the small, oil-rich Central African country.

It was praised for stepping in at the last moment to host the African Cup after Morocco pulled out over Ebola fears. However, the violence — with fans later running from baton-wielding riot police — has completely overshadowed the tournament.

A third punishment for Equatorial Guinea — forcing it to play its next home game without any fans — was suspended, CAF said in a statement following a meeting of its disciplinary committee in Bata. That means Equatorial Guinea's rowdy supporters will be allowed to return to Malabo Stadium for Saturday's third-place game against a wary Congo team.

"If they're throwing this at players, Eq Guinea, you can have 3rd place, I love football but prefer to live," Congo player Gabriel Zakuani wrote on Twitter on Friday. His tweet was in response to photographs posted by a British reporter of a rock, a broken plate, and a large jagged piece of broken glass found on the Malabo field after Thursday's chaos.

"We are, of course, disappointed," CAF spokesman Junior Binyam said. "Nobody was expecting such an outcome yesterday. We hope ... to improve security aspects and to be sure that for the third-place game and the final we won't have any issue."

CAF said it was not going to ban fans from Saturday's game, "to promote a spirit of fair play and brotherhood" at the tournament. CAF said in the same statement that the fine for Equatorial Guinea was because of the fans' "aggressive behavior," and for them being "repeat offenders."

CAF had already warned Equatorial Guinea over the conduct of its supporters and fined it $5,000 after there was trouble in the stands in the quarterfinals, a contentious 2-1 win over Tunisia at Bata Stadium last weekend.

The problems there were sparked by a hotly contested penalty given to Equatorial Guinea in the last minute of extra time, causing Tunisian players and officials to react furiously.

Related to that, CAF also announced on Friday that it had suspended Tunisian federation president Wadie Jary after his federation refused to apologize for suggesting CAF and its referee showed bias to the host nation by awarding that contentious late penalty, keeping Equatorial Guinea in the tournament.

CAF extended a deadline for the Tunisians to apologize, and said if they now did not by March 31, the country would be thrown out of the next African Cup in 2017.

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Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP