On this day, 13 January 1991, South African football experienced its worst disaster of that time when 42 football supporters lost their lives and scores left injured in a stampede at the Oppenheimer Stadium in the North West town of Orkney.
The carnage which was a consequence of overcrowding occurred during a pre-season friendly match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. Fans started rioting after Kaizer Chiefs’ striker Fani Madida had scored the leading goal.
In 2021, we commemorate 30 years since the fateful Oppenheimer Stadium disaster and the incident will never be erased from many football people’s minds as this was a dark day for the sport.
Kaizer Chiefs legends Fani Madida and Donald ‘Ace’ Khuse reflected on the day and offered words of comfort to those who lost their loved ones.
“It was a day we were looking forward to as we knew 1991 would be a special season for us,” says Fani Madida as he reflects on the day. “This pre-season game in Orkney against Pirates was going to be the one where we would signal our intentions for the campaign ahead. Unfortunately, the day did not turn out as expected and we lost 42 football fans who came out to enjoy a fun day of football. I remember after we had scored a goal, things became chaotic. It was a tragedy to have lost so many lives at a football game. To this day, I still remember all the families who lost their loved ones. The fans who lost their lives on this day in Orkney motivated me in every one of the 34 goals I scored in the 1991 season – it was in their memory.”
Kaizer Chiefs visited the venue last year in the club’s 50th year commemoration to pay homage, lay some wreaths and pray for the families. A number of legends, current players and members of the staff attended the event.
The delegation was led by Football Manager Bobby Motaung with legends such as Khuse, William Shongwe, Rudolph Gardner Seale, Wellington Manyathi, Ntsie Maphike and Abel Shongwe, the late Johannes ‘Ryder’ Mofokeng who was assistant coach, Cecil Motaung and Mncedisi ‘Shosho’ MacKenzie. These former players and administrators were in the team that travelled to Orkney in 1991.
They were joined by players such as Khama Billiat, Bruce Bvuma and Lazalous Kambole.
“We went to Orkney on 13 January 2020 to remember those who passed on that Sunday in 1991,” confirms former Kaizer Chiefs midfield maestro Donald ‘Ace’ Khuse. “it was painful to visit the site where 42 fans tragically lost their lives. It was also heartbreaking to interact with fans who had lost family members and colleagues on that fateful day in 1991. We went inside the stadium and it was painful to reflect on what happened on the day, it was a tragic event.
“It was my second time going back there since 1991, and just like the first time, I felt sad as it was painful to hear people talk about losing loved ones. I often think about the people who lost their lives at Orkney.
“I remember the game. We had just scored and then the events unfolded. Whenever there is a derby between Chiefs and Pirates, it brings back memories of what happened at the Orkney Stadium and I remember those who tragically lost their lives, he concludes.”
As football loving people, we all need to work hard and ensure that any disaster of this nature is averted and does not happen again.
This year, Kaizer Chiefs will commemorate the day from a distance due to the Covid-19 lockdown protocols.