You will always be remembered, said Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. Photo: Twitter

Glamour football clubs Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates said the lives of the 43 football fans who died in South Africa's worst football disaster in 2001 will always be remembered, even though there was no official commemoration by either club or the Premier Soccer League on Wednesday which marked 17 years since the tragedy.

On April 11 2001, 43 fans died during a stampede at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg. Around 60,000 fans were already inside the stadium but a further 30,000 had gathered outside the venue in a desperate attempt to get in to watch what is the glamour fixture on the the South African football calendar, the so-called Soweto derby.

Orlando Pirates media officer Thandi Merafe said “as the club, we will always remember the people that have passed away on that fatal incident. They will always be in our hearts and not only as the team but South African Football Association as a whole”.

Merafe, however, said that no event had been arranged for Wednesday which saw Johannesburg come to a standstill to commemorate the death of anti-apartheid struggle icon Winnie Madikizela Mandela who died on April 2. 

Kaizer Chiefs corporate communications manager Vina Maphosa also said the lives that were lost in 2001 would always be remembered.

However, the lack of an official commemorative event drew the ire of some football fans on social media who lambasted the PSL for only tweeting a picture accompanied by a caption which read: "For the 43 that never came home...Today we remember the supporters who tragically lost their lives during the Ellis Park disaster. They will forever be in our minds.."
Fans described the gesture as "insincere".

Last year, there were another two fatalities during the pre-season friendly Carling Black Label match between Chiefs and Pirates at the FNB Stadium. There was an inquiry to probe the incident, and on Wednesday both clubs said they were not able to comment as the matter was still under investigation.

Maphosa said “the team cannot comment on any investigation matters as such matters are with the department of sports and recreation".

However, Maphosa added that the club always complies with the regulations of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) to ensure that fatalities in stadiums do not happen. He said that the club forms part of the planning with other key stakeholders in ensuring that security-related matters are addressed.

African News Agency (ANA)