Football hooliganism: Have we really learnt lessons?
Accra, Dec. 25 GNA - Football hooliganism has seen a blight in recent times and hardly would a game end without some skirmish from the supporting clubs and their fanatical supporters or the stakeholders getting involved in various acts violence.
In most cases, football matches do not end at the stipulated time due to violence which normally erupt before, during and after the game by some supposed 'faceless and passionate' supporter hooligans with the quest for their clubs to win matches at all cost all the times.
The question to ask is whether lessons have been learnt from the past as far as football violence is concerned. There is a saying that 'experience is the name we give to our mistakes', but do we learn from our mistakes? It is high time drastic measures are put in place to curtail this phenomenon. The euphoria and passion of the game is to unite and entertain the sporting fraternity and not to injure, kill or destroy.
The game of football since its inception seems to be characterized by violent activities which mar the beauty of the game and discourages the sporting public from attending the events. The football authorities and the club officials complain of low patronage to the local league and yet these ugly scenes continue to wreck the game. If this is not checked the fear will continue to imbibe in people's mind that they are not safe at the venues.
The activities of hooligans at the various stadia have led to the darkest day in the history of Ghana and Africa soccer, where 126 people died with several of the fans injured. The incident took place during a stampede between the fans of Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko in a Premier League match at the Ohene Djan sports stadium, Accra on the 9th May, 2001.
There was another clash between the fans and the Police resulting in severe injuries of the supporters when Hearts of Oak played against Real Tamale United on the 15th January, 2009 Premier League match at the Tamale stadium.
In the same year there was also another violence at the stadium when Kotoko engaged St. Mirren football club where some aggrieved fans broke the inner perimeter unto the pitch. Riots erupted after a league match between Accra Hearts of Oak and Sekondi Eleven Wise where officials of some of the teams were brutalized severely on the 17th March, 2009 league.
Another ugly scene of football violence which claimed four lives of fans during Premier League match occurred between Kotoko and Hearts in 2009 at the Baba Yara sports stadium in Kumasi after Hearts won the game 2-1. The stampede, according to the security agencies at the stadium was as a result of suffocation where the Fire Service had to come to the rescue of the fans by sprinkling water into the crowd.
Another latest development was the repulsive incident at the Ohene Djan Stadium between Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko on the 13th December, 2009 in their 9th Week league encounter. This time around the riot was between the goal keeper of Asante Kotoko and the national security personnel which took place after the end of the stipulated ninety minutes
The scuffle led to the arrest of some fans for allegedly hurling a stone into the crowd on the pitch. The North Stand of the Stadium, a noted place for the Hearts fans, also had their share of the nasty scenes with fans of the two clubs engaged in physical exchanges.
But for the intervention of the Police and Security detail, it could have been a different story to be told.
These occurrences depict an explicit indication that there is more to learn as far as violence at the various satdia is concern.
It is high time those football hooligans are made to know that they cannot take the law into their own hands and that their actions can affect their teams in terms of fines and bans.
Consequently besides being fined and banished from the teams home grounds, teams ought to be tasked to help the law enforcement agencies to bring to book trouble makers at the various stadia. The debate over whether or not perimeter fences should be allowed at the arena of stadia has raged on for some time with the world soccer governing body, FIFA, insisting inner perimeters should be removed.
Observers, however, argue that the protective barriers are still very much needed on the African continent. Football authorities, clubs and the media must step up the war against hooliganism by getting the fans to shun violence by punishing the hooligans severely.
The first recorded instances of football hooliganism in the modern game took place in the 1880's in England. In 1885, after Preston North End beat Aston Villa 5-0 in a friendly match, the two teams were pelted with stones, sticks, punching, kicking and what have you. One Preston player was beaten so severely that he lost consciousness.
Sir Norman's (2002) attributed drinking alcohol as one of the causes of football hooliganism. He said "Males of all social classes are often encouraged, for example, to celebrate special occasions with their male friends by drinking to excess.
However to curb this menace, sports stakeholders have a role to play. Sports presenters must try to be objective and be professional in performing their task. The presenters must learn to put their club affiliations aside any time they are to perform their duties. Just like referees, presenters have clubs they support but professionalism should be the keyword.
Invited quest for sports discussion should be advised to avoid using seditious words which can spark or incite fans to cause violence at the stadiums and punitive measures should be reserved for perpetrators of these mayhem.
The effects of football hooliganism have a dramatic reputation for the country, hence it should not be given the chance to operate and blossom.
The Ghana Football Association and the government should intensify public education on the need to avoid violence at the various stadia.
The use of Football Trust-funded Closed Circuit TV equipment (CCTV) by the Police in and around grounds of all the stadiums can go a long way in contributing to limit and curtailing the problems of violence by hooligans while ensuring early and successful prosecution of offenders. The (CCTV) will help monitor the activities of fans in and around the stadium and arrest any hooligan and to bring sanity to the beautiful game of football which has been the passion of many.