As hosts of the South American qualifying section for the 1964 Olympics, Peru had high hopes of filling one of the top two spots that would ensure their place at the Tokyo Olympic Games. They had, after all, qualified for the previous Olympics in Rome. Their campaign kicked off with an inauspicious 1-1 draw with Ecuador, but by the time they confronted their perpetual nemesis, Argentina, they had dispatched Colombia and Uruguay. Argentina, on the other hand, brought with them a perfect record and Brazil lurked just beneath Peru in the table. Getting a result of some sort was crucial.
After a first half that brought stalemate, the game sprang into life when the Argentine Manfredi scored in the 60th minute. The home crowd then grew increasingly passionate as Peru strove for an equalizer. With minutes to go, their prayers seemed to have been answered as the ball crossed the Argentinian goal line. The stadium erupted, first with joy and then with fury, as the referee disallowed the goal. That fateful decision sparked what stands as the worst riot ever witnessed at a sports event.
Two fans ran onto the pitch to attack the referee and many more surged forward. The police, who were greatly outnumbered, responded by firing tear gas. The scene rapidly descended into chaos. The crowd grew ever more enraged and were soon in a mood to fight. Fires were started in the stands and a mob began smashing up the stadium. The police responded by firing live rounds over the heads of the rioters. By now in a state of total panic, the majority of the spectators attempted to leave the stadium, only to find their way blocked by firmly closed iron gates. In the ensuing crush hundreds lost their lives and even more sustained serious injuries.
When was the Lima National Stadium Riot: May 24 1964
Where was the Lima National Stadium Riot: National Stadium, Lima, Peru
What was the Lima National Stadium Riot death toll: 318 dead, more than 500 injured
You should know: Once the fans finally escaped from the stadium, thousands of them marched on the Presidential Palace to call for the match to be declared a draw. Such was their crazy passion for football that they cared less for the dead and the dying than they did for the result rather than being kicked out of the tournament the team was invited to play Brazil for the final berth at the Olympics. The game was held in Rio and Peru lost 4-0.
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