On the heels of the violent riots after China’s national men's soccer team lost its third consecutive game this past weekend, a stampede of soccer fans broke out Thursday afternoon at a Shanghai university. There was no game; it was just the appearance of David Beckham at Tongji University that inspired a stampede of fans eager to get a peek at the English soccer superstar.
The stampede occurred in the early afternoon as Beckham, China’s new Chinese Super League soccer ambassador, arrived on campus. According to the South China Morning Post, five people were injured when the university’s soccer stadium gates were opened to allow the former English national team captain into the area. A group of roughly 1,000 enthusiastic fans surged forward, rushing toward Beckham and trampling over several others. The crowd managed to push through several layers of security guards and even pushed police officers to the ground.
One female fan said the chaos started just before Beckham’s arrival. “I was in the second row, wanting to take a photo of Beckham. Everyone jostled each other. I wanted to get out of it but couldn’t,” she told Xinmin.com. “Then I was pushed toward the gate. People in front of me fell, but those behind continued to push. Then I and others fell too,” she said.
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Tongji University’s official profile on China's popular microblogging platform, Weibo, confirmed that at least five people were injured during the stampede. Among them were two police officers, two security personnel and one student. Photos of a police officer with a bloodied face were posted on Weibo, in addition to scenes from the aftermath showing abandoned shoes, bags and other miscellaneous belongings left behind during the commotion.
The event that would have featured the now-retired soccer star meeting the university's soccer team was promptly cancelled and Beckham left the arena to avoid creating even more pandemonium. Beckham did take to his official Weibo account to address his cancelled appearance. “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. 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 wrote.
The aggression was apparently caused mostly by young women who were reportedly there to catch a glimpse of the handsome athlete. “We should have deployed at least another 100 police and security staff to keep the event in order,” one unidentified teacher who helped coordinate the event said to the Post. “We underestimated the enthusiasm of the fans, particularly some overexcited young women.”
Beckham’s stop in Shanghai was part of a seven-day China tour promoting the Chinese league. Earlier on the tour, Beckham visited Beijing and Nanjing.