Thousands of fans stampede at World Cup

An injured supporter talks on the phone as he lies on the ground prior to the warmup match between North Korea and Nigeria in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday June 6, 2010. / AP Photo

JOHANNESBURG (AP) " The World Cup's top officials said Monday the South African stadium stampede that left a policeman seriously injured sounded an urgent warning for organizers preparing for the event's opening match later this week, and called on police to do a better job.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the organization regretted Sunday's incident, which left 16 people injured outside Makhulong Stadium in the township of Tembisa near Johannesburg.

"I am sure, and you are sure, that this is like an alarm clock and this will not happen at any match at the World Cup," Blatter said after a two-day meeting of FIFA's executive committee.

The stampede occurred at an exhibition match between Nigeria and North Korea where police said a crowd twice forced open the gates to the stadium.

"In terms of organization, please be sure that the level of organization we have at the World Cup is definitely higher than the one we have seen there," said FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, who was sitting alongside Blatter at the media briefing. "We have to make sure that the police working around the World Cup stadiums will do better than what we have seen yesterday."

Thousands of fans gathered outside the stadium after roughly 10,000 tickets were given away free for the match, and police could not cope with the surge of supporters.

"The security is always a matter for the state where the sport event is played," Blatter said. "The FIFA organization, with all its ramifications, we have no police force. We cannot even take out a spectator from a stadium. We cannot do that. It is not possible," he said.

FIFA and South Africa's World Cup organizers have said they had no involvement in Sunday's game, which police said was organized by the Nigerian football federation.

Valcke also denied claims from the Nigerian team that they were forced to use the outdated stadium, which has no turnstiles at entrances for fans, because FIFA had control of all other possible venues.

Blatter and Valcke addressed a wide range of football issues, including Brazil's recent match in Zimbabwe, where players such as Kaka and Robinho were seen shaking hands with president Robert Mugabe " who has been accused of running a campaign of political violence in his country.

"We have seen the enthusiasm of the people and how football connected people and that's all," Blatter said. "I think it was a good idea to go there."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.