Equatorial Guinea fined, must pay for treatment of injured Ghana fans
The Equatorial Guinea football federation has been fined $100,000 and ordered to pay for the treatment of Ghana supporters who were injured by flying missiles during Thursday's African Nations Cup semi-final at the Estadio de Malabo.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) imposed the punishment on Friday, and announced a one-match suspended ground closure on Equatorial Guinea, the tournament hosts who lost the semi-final 3-0.
The ground closure will only be enforced should there be further trouble during Saturday's third-place play-off match between Equatorial Guinea and DR Congo, which also takes place at the Malabo stadium.
Announcing the sanctions on its website, CAF said 36 Ghana supporters were hurt after coming under attack from home supporters, with 14 taken to hospital. It said one of those hospitalised was under close observation.
CAF said in a statement: "The disciplinary committee of CAF has examined the reports from officials following the incidents which occurred in match 30 of the African Nations Cup, between Ghana and Equatorial Guinea."
Outlining its punishments, it said: "The disciplinary committee decides:
"To demand from Equatorial Guinea to take charge of the cost of treating all the injured people from the match in question.
"To impose on the Equatorial Guinea federation a fine of 100,000 US dollars for the aggressive and recidivist behaviour of its supporters.
"To force Equatorial Guinea to play its next match behind closed doors. However, to promote the spirit of Fair Play and friendship during the 2015 African Nations Cup, the committee has decided to suspend the closed doors match on the condition that supporters are not guilty of such an infraction in the third-place match.
"In the event that identical incidents occur in the third-place match on February 7, the disciplinary committee of the CAF will automatically impose the behind-closed-doors sanction on the Equatorial Guinea team who will have to play their next official international match without spectators."
Equatorial Guinea may have had a lighter punishment had their supporters behaved until Thursday's incident, but the CAF pointed out it was a third offence, after trouble involving the home fans in previous tournament games against Gabon and Tunisia.
The match was watched by millions across the world, and prior to CAF announcing its findings, world governing body FIFA said any such hostility was unacceptable.
A FIFA spokesperson said: "It is important to emphasise that FIFA deplores any form of violence. There is no doubt that safety and security are top priorities for FIFA and have to be a priority in any football match."
Equatorial Guinea stepped in to host the tournament at the 11th hour after Morocco pulled out due to fears regarding the Ebola epidemic.
The head of the Ghanaian Football Association said he feared supporters would be killed as violence broke out on Thursday.
Ghana were closing in on victory when their celebrating fans were forced to flee the stands after being pelted with bottles.
The Ghana Football Association's Twitter feed described the scene as being "like a war zone" as a police helicopter hovered over the ground.
Ghana FA president Kwesi Nyantakyi told the BBC World Service on Friday: "We're lucky we haven't lost any lives, though people have sustained injuries arising from objects thrown at them."
A horrifying array of items were picked off the pitch, with a BBC reporter taking a picture of what appeared to be a small rock, half a dining plate, and a jagged shard of mirror.
Nyantakyi told BBC World Service: "African football has grown beyond this level and in the 21st century we expect to see more decency in the behaviour of fans.
"A high-profile game of this nature should have attracted police, intelligence officers and military.
"I couldn't have counted 50 policemen at the stadium, the rest were from Angola, who were not familiar with the terrain, so they didn't know how to handle the situation. So the Ghanaian fans were left at the mercy of these violent fans."
The match was suspended for around half an hour as Ghana supporters took refuge behind one of the goals, out of range of most missiles. It eventually resumed and Ghana completed their victory, setting up a final against Ivory Coast on Sunday.
Jonathan Mensah, who played in the match for Ghana, wrote on his personal website on Friday: "It was really an ugly sight. It's unacceptable for such things to occur anywhere in the world let alone in a football stadium. I hope all fans are safe and my thoughts are with those who have sustained any injuries."