Estadio Nacional disaster

The Estadio Nacional disaster of 24 May 1964 (also known as the Lima football disaster) is, to date, the worst disaster in association football history.[1] It occurred during a game of Peru versus Argentina. During the match, there was an unpopular decision given by the referee. Outraged, the Peruvian fans decided to invade the pitch. Police retaliated by firing tear gas into the stadium crowd, causing a mass exodus. The deaths mainly occurred from people suffering from internal hemorrhaging or asphyxiation from the crushing against the steel shutters that led down to the street.

National Stadium Tragedy
The stadium's western entrance before the 2011 renovations.
Location Peru
Coordinates12°04′02.2″S 77°02′01.4″W / 12.067278°S 77.033722°W / -12.067278; -77.033722
Date24 May 1964 (1964-05-24)


On 24 May 1964, Peru hosted Argentina at the Estadio Nacional in Lima. The game, in the qualifying round for the Tokyo Olympics' football tournament, was seen as vital for Peru, then holding the second qualifying place in the CONMEBOL table, who would face a tough match against Brazil in their final game. The match attracted a capacity 53,000 crowd to the stadium.


With Argentina leading 1–0 and six minutes of normal time remaining, a would-be equalising goal by Peru was disallowed by Uruguayan referee Ángel Eduardo Pazos. This decision infuriated the home fans and triggered a pitch invasion. The Peruvian police fired tear gas canisters into the northern grandstand to prevent further fans from invading the field of play. This caused panic and an attempt at a mass exodus to avoid the gas.

Rather than standard gates, the stadium had solid corrugated steel shutters at the bottom of tunnels that connected the street level, via several flights of steps, to the seating areas above. These shutters were closed as they normally were at every game. Panicked spectators moving down the enclosed stairways pressed those in the lead against the closed shutters, but this was not visible to the crowd pushing down the stairwells from behind. The shutters finally burst outward as a result of pressure from the crush of bodies inside. All of those that died were killed in the stairwells down to the street level, most from internal haemorrhaging or asphyxia. No one who stayed inside the stadium died.[2][3] In the street, the crowd caused destruction on private property around the stadium.


The official number of those who died is 328, but this may be an underestimate.[1] Even this total is higher than those killed in the Hillsborough disaster, Bradford fire, Heysel disaster, 1971 Ibrox disaster, 1902 Ibrox disaster, and Burnden Park disaster combined. Following the incident, a decision was made to reduce the seating capacity of the stadium from 53,000 to 42,000 in 1964, although this was later increased to 47,000 for the 2004 Copa América.[3]


  1. ^ a b Piers Edwards (23 May 2014). "Lima 1964: The world's worst stadium disaster". BBC News. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
  2. ^ "Football's worst tragedies". BBC News. 12 April 2001.
  3. ^ a b "Aniversario 45 de la tragedia en el Estadio Nacional de Lima". RPP Noticias (in Spanish). Retrieved 14 October 2012.

Coordinates: 12°04′02.2″S 77°02′01.4″W / 12.067278°S 77.033722°W / -12.067278; -77.033722