At least two people were feared dead and five others seriously injured last night after an elaborate goal celebration by Arsenal’s Andre Arshavin went tragically wrong.
After grabbing a late winner against Barcelona, the striker joined teammates in forming a human pyramid in front of celebrating supporters while waving blazing distress flares above their heads.
But within seconds the human pyramid was seen to collapse into the crowd and erupt in a ball of flame.
“It was a bloodbath,” said Arsenal fan Colin Briggs, 35, who witnessed the carnage. “Which was a pity because it all seemed to be going well initially.
“Arshavin scored and beckoned players onto his shoulders. Van Persie lifted himself up with Wilshere and within a minute there were 10 players in the pyramid swaying in front of the Arsenal fans.
“It was clearly a rehearsed celebration as the players pulled out distress flares concealed in their socks and began waving them in the air. It was an incredible sight.”
Things are thought to have gone wrong when the eleventh player, Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas tried to make his way to the apex of the pyramid through the pall of smoke that now enveloped the human structure.
Emirates fire safety officer Timothy Gittens said: “Fabregas’s vision was clearly affected and instead of heading up the centre of the pyramid he scrabbled up the right hand side causing the pyramid to lean precariously.”
As the Arsenal players tried desperately to arrest the pyramid’s alarming lurch towards the fans, sparks from the flares were seen to ignite the shirts of several of the players.
“While those on top of the pyramid tried to beat out the flames, those at the foot of the structure were unaware of the drama unfolding above their heads,” revealed Arsenal’s Pat Rice.
Realising things could be about to get worse, he sprinted from his dug-out armed with drinks bottles.
“I told the subs and the backroom staff to gather as many drinks as they could,” Rice told reporters last night. “I could see the flames rising and the bottles were our only hope of extinguishing the fire.”
According to reports, the celebration was meant to end with Fabregas performing a swan dive from the top of the pyramid into the arms of the subs bench, but, instead, the now blazing pyramid of players collapsed into the end behind the goal housing thousands of Arsenal supporters.
At least two people are reported dead and several players and fans were rushed to hospital as fire crews battled the blaze.
Emergency crews were still sifting through the wreckage as The News Grind went to press.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said he didn’t see the incident.