The stampede at Essipon stadium
Media reports suggest that several people were injured when soccer fans broke one of the main gates at the Essipon Sports Stadium at Sekondi, during the Black Stars versus Lesotho African and World Cup qualifying match. The incident opened the floodgate for as many as 30,000 supporters to pack themselves into the stadium, which is originally designed to accommodate 20,000 fans.
The Sekondi episode has once again exposed the lackadaisical attitude we adopt in controlling crowd during soccer matches in the country. On May 9 2001, 126 soccer fans were killed following a stampede that occurred during a league match between Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko, at the Ohene Gyan Sports Stadium. With this event still fresh in the memory of most Ghanaians, one would have expected that both the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and the Police Service would put tight security measures in place to ensure an incident free match, but that did not happen.
The two bodies appear to have underrated the number of soccer fans who would turn up to watch the match and we nearly paid dearly for that misjudgement. Instead of the GFA accepting their failure in terms of organization of the match, its President, Mr. Kwesi Nyantakyi who spoke on several radio stations after the match tried to seek refuge in an alibi that the stadium was too small to host the match.
Whilst conceding to this fact, we think if the FA had liaised with the Police to come out with a well-rehearsed security strategy, the incident that is now threatening to bring sanctions against Ghana by FIFA, would have been avoided. We stand to be corrected, but we think this is the first time that the Black Stars is playing an international match of such magnitude in Sekondi, and the FA should have taken cognisance of this and planned accordingly, but this did not happen.
The Chronicle, however, feels that the incident should not scare the FA from sending future Black Stars' matches to Sekondi or Tamale. The decision to rotate the matches among the Kumasi, Accra, Tamale and Sekondi stadia is a laudable one. What the FA must do is to strengthen security, especially in Sekondi and Tamale, which has lesser capacity, to ensure that only the required number of people enter the stadium.
The exploits of the Black Stars during the World Cup has rekindled the faith and support that Ghanaian soccer fans have in the team, therefore, everybody is eager to watch the Stars' matches. It would be wrong for the FA to deny Ghanaians in other cities apart from Accra and Kumasi, the chance to watch the Black Stars play live. We insist that the issue had to do more with security lapses and organisational ineptitude, and therefore, call on the FA to do its homework in that direction the next time.