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7 injured at Beckham event

By Wang Zhenghua in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-21 07:03

7 injured at Beckham event

Fans surround British soccer star David Beckham during his visit to Tongji University in Shanghai on Thursday, which resulted in chaotic scenes. Seven people were injured and the rest of Beckham's schedule was canceled. Gao Erqiang / China Daily

Witnesses of a stampede that occurred as up to 1,000 fans tried to get a glimpse of David Beckham at Shanghai's Tongji University on Thursday have blamed poor management and the "insanity of the crowd" for the incident.

Three police officers, two security guards and two students were injured when the former soccer star, now an ambassador for the Chinese Super League, arrived at the college as part of a weeklong China tour.

Security personnel received minor injuries when the crowd surged forward, Shanghai police said.

One of the injured students, who is from Japan, has returned to school after receiving treatment, while the other was still in a hospital for further observation.

Witnesses said the lack of measures to keep onlookers outside the college and officers' inability to direct the crowd were to blame.

"I suspect only a third of those who showed up to see Beckham were Tongji students. Many were from nearby universities," said He Chengshuang, a senior at Tongji University.

"The road outside the pitch was cordoned off, but the blocks set up on the road were only knee-high and people simply stepped over them."

Williams Kassire, a student from Chad, said the fervor of the huge crowd was scary.

"I'm a soccer fan, but I did not dare get close. There were many screams and ambulances were busy taking away those injured," he said.

According to witnesses, Beckham was heading for the pitch at about 2:40 pm and was about to play with university students and players from Shenxin Football Club after meeting school officials.

But his walk toward the pitch was made difficult by the huge crowd. As soon as he reached the steel-fence enclosed pitch, security guards tried to shut the only gate, but failed to stop the crowds before the stampede took place.

Pictures taken by bloggers and media workers showed a police officer on the ground. She had blood on her face and was being cared of by others.

Many people stumbled amid the chaos as an officer climbed on top of the fence and yelled at the crowds to restore order. The injured were carried to safety by others or on makeshift stretchers.

"I was pushed by the crowd and fell down," an unidentified student told the Xinmin news website. "My legs were stuck, and then my chest. I could not breathe. I was almost killed."

Tongji University declined to disclose how many police officers and security guards were dispatched for the event or who should be blamed for the accident, and described the incident in a statement as "short-time congestion caused by the high spirits of people".

It put the number of the injured at six - five security workers and one overseas student.

Because of the accident, the event was canceled and Beckham arrived in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, at 5:40 pm to continue his tour.

"I had an incredible response from everyone at Shanghai Tongji University today. Sorry I couldn't get out on the pitch to see the teams," Beckham wrote on his Sina Weibo micro blog, a popular micro-blogging website.

"It was impossible to get through the massive crowds. I heard there were a few injuries, hope the fans are OK and I wish them a speedy recovery," he added.

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