Police in the Guinean capital Conakry have confirmed three people were killed after a grenade exploded in a bar packed with football fans watching the country’s Africa Cup of Nations opener against Cote d’Ivoire.
A transmission problem in the area saw hordes of supporters gather inside the public house on Tuesday, but disaster struck when the device was set off in the crowd. A spokesman for the police Mamadou Alpha Barry told AFP the grenade was triggered by a civilian, and added: “It was an accidental explosion since he himself was seriously injured.”
An eyewitness told guineenews: “When the grenade exploded, I thought it was a short circuit, but the noise was too loud and there was a lot of smoke. Luckily, the rest of my family couldn’t get here – if they had, they might have been killed.”
Guinea drew the game 1-1 but captain Kamil Zayatte said news of the incident had cast a shadow over what should have been a moment of celebration for the nation.
“We wanted to give the people back home something to cheer, and there were parties all over Conakry when we drew the game,” he said. “Then we heard about the deaths. It’s terrible news.”
The Syli Nationale have had a difficult preparation for the tournament, being exiled because of the presence of the Ebola virus in Guinea, where nearly 2,000 people have been killed by the disease.
They had to play all their ‘home’ qualifiers in Morocco, and were abused at away games by fans who shouted “Ebola, Ebola,” at the team.
Guinea are almost without support in Equatorial Guinea, while their rivals in Group D have large followings. Ivory Coast had large groups of orange-clad fans on all sides of the pitch at the first game, while neighbouring Cameroon, in the second match, were backed by about 3,000 supporters who live and work in Malabo.
Mali, who held Cameroon 1-1, had the biggest following – about 4,000. There are many thousands of Malians working in Bata and Malabo, Equatorial Guinea’s two biggest cities. All games in Malabo are already sold out.
Guinea’s coach, Michel Dussuyer, was asked by Goal if this put his team at a disadvantage. “We are used to it,” he said.
“If the people of Equatorial Guinea supported us it would be very welcome – we would really appreciate it. But we played all our qualifying games with no home support, in Morocco, and here it is the same. We will just have to focus on our task, on our football.”