16.08.2004 Football News

Discipline Abedi Sarfo for the good of the game

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(A GNA feature by Veronica Commey)

Accra, August 16, GNA - The scanty supporters who thronged the nation's Wembley, Accra Sports Stadium for last Sunday's two matches at the Accra Sports Stadium in the Ghana League Clubs Association (GHALCA) Novelty League must have been alarmed at the high level of hooliganism displayed in the Real Sportive-BA United match.

Players and some officials of Brong Ahafo United took the law into their hands to "discipline" Cape Coast-based referee Joshua Mensah for what they saw as bias officiating before the very eyes of the security personnel who showed a momentarily apathy before stepping in to save the situation.

The chief culprit, Abedi Sarfo led the assault on the referee and personally gave the middleman some few military knocks to set the stage for a free-for-all manhandling of the poor referee.

Surprisingly, it took the yelling of some Greater Accra referees who had converged at the Press box for a refresher course to "awaken" the security personnel to come to the aid of their colleague.

And even when they finally intervened, they appeared powerless and allowed the B. A. players who formed a protective shield around the "ringleaders" thwarted their efforts at arresting Sarfo.

The referee undoubtedly was at his lowest ebb but was the attack necessary? And why did it take the security personnel such a long time to come to his rescue?

The Ghana League Clubs Association and the Ghana Football Association must sanction both Sarfo and the officials to serve as a deterrent to others.

Exactly three years ago, the May 9 Accra Sports Stadium disaster struck the country in which 126 soccer fans were killed due to crowd violence, but it looks as though nothing has been learnt from that sad event.

We were all witnesses to a similar incident at the Koforidua Park some seasons ago where former Kotoko number one goalkeeper Osei Boateng was banned for one year after striking a referee.

The authorities should send signals to Sarfo and his officials that soccer is governed by international law and order, which cannot be flouted with impunity.

The FA especially must be seen to be firm and fair, applying the rules correctly without favour.

Needless to say, though, that the FA's action would be contingent on the referee's own report and perhaps that of the match commissioner and if he fails to do the right thing by exposing the wrong doers for other considerations, then he and his other colleagues would continue to be taken for a ride.

The former Asante Kotoko star gave me a reason to believe that targeting only supporters in our quest to uproot hooliganism would have little meaning if characters like Sarfo remain the reason why soccer lovers throng the arena week in and out.

I personally believe that characters like Sarfo do not deserve to be involved in the passion of the nation, which can unite more than divide. And it is against this backdrop that I ask the appropriate sanctions to be applied.

None need to be told that until tough actions are taking against culprits, our football will not know the desire peace needed to push the global leather to the required level.

Until players are made responsible for their behaviour and actions and made to face the law, they will forever think they are superior and untouchables at the expense of referees and lovers of the game. It is imperative that players are made to understand that the referees' main duty is only to play and enforce as ensure the interpretation of the rules to the appropriate body.

It is simply not by chance that the Zidanes, Ronaldos, Theiry's and Kahns are what they are today - it takes discipline on and off the pitch, which unfortunately seems Sarfo lacks.

I wonder what prevented Sarfo from taking his chances on the field in a game which they enjoyed the better part of play only to allow Sportive who had to retreat and overstretch their elastic limits all afternoon to carry the day.

Perhaps before I lift my fingers off the keyboards it is important that I crave the indulgence of the Police authorities to select personnel who are dedicated and willing to work and not keen to only watch football matches while on duty.

Maybe with the report of the Okudjetu's Commission as the hindsight, the police personnel were reluctant to react but is this reasoning justifiable?

It is hard to reconcile their duty at the stadium and their approach in the handling of Sarfo and his group, as their delayed inaction gave them the courage to extend their anger amidst missile throwing to supporters who booed at their actions.

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