17.07.2005 Football News

The need for security at match venues

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By Richard Avornyotse (GNA Sports Desk)

Accra, July 17, GNA - Life has no duplicate. Once it is lost, it can never, never be replaced. Everybody has a single opportunity to live and the dead will never come back to life until "the second coming of Christ."

Based on the above, it becomes very pertinent to protect the life of every individual, particularly when that person is law abiding and contributes to the development of society.

And having tasted the bitterness of a tragedy as a nation on May 9, 2001 at the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium in Accra, where 127 able bodied youth of the nation lost their lives, one is wont to believe that our attitude at sporting events would change for the better. But alas! We seem not to have learnt anything from that piteous spectacle, where dead bodies formed a range of mountains on the stairwells of the May 9 Stand.

Sports administrators, spectators and our security forces have all failed to comply with the recommendations of the Okudzeto Commission, which was constituted to probe the events of May 9 and proffer recommendations to avert a recurrence.

Due to the laxity of organisers and the security forces, very few policemen were on duty at the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium on Sunday, July 10, even though the match was a top liner, which could generate tension and induce hash reactions from the fans.

One does not have to be a security expert to guess the demeanour of the King Faisal management in the face of a slip or an error by the match officials and the attendant reaction of the Hearts of Oak fans. Succinctly put, the indices pointed to a volatile situation, which demanded a better security analysis and preparation than was seen at the Stadium on Sunday.

Worse, the handful of police personnel present at the stadium lined up in the inner perimeter and there was not a single one in the stands to deter those fans who took the law into their hands and pelted the match officials with objects; a complete deviation from the recommendations the Commission.

While the Ohene Djan and Baba Yara sports stadia in Accra and Kumasi respectively are considered the safest in the country despite the leaks in security arrangements, other match venues are nothing, but gallows for officials who venture to do matches there.

On Saturday, a day before the Hearts Faisal match, class one referee, John Listowel Zilevu, a teacher at the Akatsi Training College escaped being lynched by inches after handling a Division One League match between St. Mirren and Great Olympics.

The referee was chased, really chased, by disgruntled supporters of St. Mirren who wanted to sniff life out of the poor teacher because their pet side had lost a match.

Mr Zilevu, who was by all standards, exposed and vulnerable during and after the match sweated profusely after being rescued by four Fire Service personnel, who represented the entire security details for the match and some well-meaning soccer fans.

The conduct of those who misconduct themselves at our stadia and other match venues must be condemned in no uncertain terms. But mere condemnation will not scuttle the growing spate of hooliganism in our football.

Soccer, being the passion of the nation is a source of respite and entertainment to the spectators, whose safety must be guaranteed because it is their money that helps to sustain the clubs.

Match officials at all levels must be adequately protected so that they have the courage to interpret the rules as they must be, in order to award victories to deserving teams.

It is only by doing so that our football will grow and worthy league champions will emerge to fly the national flag in international competitions.

Security lapses surfaced again on the opening day of the Davis Cup tennis competition between Ghana and Georgia at the Frank Ofori Centre Court of the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium.

It was only when the competition appeared to be in danger due to crowd misconduct that the organisers remembered to call for police details to put the situation under control.

Organisers of our league matches and the security agencies must ensure that enough security is provided at match venues so that Ghanaians do not gnash their teeth once again, cursing their stars and doing a post mortem on how to skip another avoidable death.

If there is another sports related tragedy, the "ifs" will be copious in discussions on our radio and television programmes and will indeed occupy space on the pages of newspapers, but they certainly cannot resurrect a dead person.

We must endeavour to "do the right thing" to protect life and property at our sports stadia and parks. Life has no duplicate! Keep shooting!

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