(A GNA feature by Veronica Commey)
Accra, Nov 16, GNA - It is an undeniable fact that hooliganism is gradually gaining roots in our game of football, a situation that has obviously warded off potential sponsors from the league in times past. Some of us have looked with irony in our seemingly helpless quest to uproot the canker that is fast creeping into the very bottom of the fibre of the passion of the nation; a situation that has compelled me to wonder whether the Okudjato Commission's decision to be silent on finding culprits or scapegoats in the wake of the May 9 recommendations was a shrewd decision.
Since time immemorial, we have seen clubs facing the unpleasant duty of paying the price of their reckless supporters who had failed to comprehend with the fact that the global leather is reserved for the decent and the elite, hence the need to behave as such, no matter the circumstance.
Not too long ago, Okwawu United had to relinquish three important points and goals for the unprofessional and unsporting conduct of some of their fans who had no business in taking the law into their hands by assaulting referee Alhasan Brobbey in their league tie against Real Tamale United (RTU).
As usual, the club had to suffer only for the reckless culprit to escape punishment that would have deterred those with similar "appetites for harm" from future recurrences.
The reality is that, most of these supporters who engage in such acts have no idea with regards to how the teams are funded and how the administrators even manage to keep the team they claim to love so much to survive, only for them to come to the stadia and cause unnecessary headaches.
That clubs will do themselves and the game loads of good by embarking on education drives for their supporters on accepting that football is only a game and for the fact that one cannot always win, is a truism, but experience has shown that until people are made responsible for their shortfalls, they will regard their misdeeds as a norm to carry on with their actions.
The reality is that, had that supporter who took the centre stage of hooliganism and barbarism in a league game involving Asante Kotoko and Bofoakwa Tano some three seasons ago, by hitting a referee with a football boot been apprehended and prosecuted, those who supposedly attacked referee Brobbey would have had enough reason to wise up.
Again had those who took the law into their hands to set the tone for the May 9 disaster been made to face the full rigorous of the law, those Kpando Heart of Lions supporters who turned their park into the rioting field in an apparent protest of bias officiating in their mid-week game against Hearts of Oak would have had every reason to fear the repercussions.
I think our attempt to uproot hooliganism has been elusive because we have relegated the main architects and culprit to the background whilst addressing the wrong objects - the clubs.
No club will ideally want to play home games on neutral grounds knowing the power of the home advantage the world over and to argue some clubs incite their supporters to cause harm is unfortunate. I believe the problem is largely with the fact that some supporters who most often delude themselves to be "team gods" of their clubs, irrespective of their miniature contribution have always lived with the laxity of getting away with their wrongdoings as the "men" whiles the clubs goes through the repulsive duty of appearing before the Disciplinary Committee's and their allies to defend the indefensible.
A cross section of supporters and sports reporters the GNA Sports spoke with expressed similar sentiments and wonder why the football authorities as well as the security agencies have over the years failed to grapple with the phenomenon.
Sincerely, I have always held the opinion that our inaction and negligence in prosecuting culprits rather than covering them up with descriptions like "unidentified supporter" have been one of the primary banes of the country's spate of hooliganism.
I read the Okudjato Commission's Report of page 38 that sought to somehow "justify" the supporters' unpleasant behaviour with some amusement.
It was an obvious truism that the security personnel over reacted in their quest to halt the hooligans, but to claim that "indeed some of the missile throwers were just showing their disgust and would have moved off after venting their emotions by throwing the missiles" as explained in section 25.24 on page 39 was a regrettable observation by the Commission.
Whoever said since the missiles were not directed at any particular group or person(s) and that the fans did not threaten each other in the stands or anywhere else in the arena and hence the need to have allowed them to vent their supposed anger, might perhaps have to do some rethinking.
Until we take a cue from the Portuguese security that arrested the rioting English fans during the Euro 2004 Championship, the war on hooliganism would be a lost battle forever.
Unless the authorities take the bull by the horns and operate like the English security who will arrest supporters irrespective of their club affiliation for prosecution and further go as far as alerting protocols to deny known hooligans access to the stadia, our sweat will be in vain.
What would we have achieved if the clubs embark on an effort to repair the damage behind the scenes only for the supporters to rebel and derail their effort?
It is important that the football authorities revisit the Commission's recommendations to empower and equip the security agencies deployed to the stadia to work efficiently.
Watching the Policemen at the Kpando park struggling but in vain to topple rioting supporters with their bear hands and occasionally falling victims of the angry fans gave credence to the fact that until they are well equipped with the shield, riot gear and the megaphones, one would have to forget the war on hooliganism.
Again, the need to task the security men who throng the arena to concentrate on mingling with the supporters and focusing on their duties and not merely watching the game and to as well stay vigilant all afternoon, must be among the prime objectives of ensuring incident free hooliganism at our football matches.
The hour to displace the cancer couldn't have been any further, those with ears, must listen for the growth and restoration of sanity into Ghana football.