Nairobi, Kenya -- The decision by Fifa to play next month's World Cup qualifier between Kenya and Tunisia behind closed doors is a wake up call for Africa's soccer administrators to take stadium security more seriously.
Three-times Africa Footballer of the Year Abedi "Pele" Ayew yesterday said in Nairobi that many fans have died in stadium unrest throughout the continent but the African Football Confederation (CAF) has failed to act.
Pele cited his nation, Ghana, where 126 fans died three years ago, South Africa and DR Congo as countries that have witnessed stampedes yet CAF has failed to take punitive action against the respective soccer federations.
The former star said if CAF would have taken action in some of these incidents, then the recent death of a fan at Nairobi's Nyayo National Stadium could have been averted. Pele said as much as he sympathised with recent ban on Kenyan fans during their World Cup/African Cup of Nations qualifier against Tunisia on September 2 in Nairobi it will serve as a wake up call to other African countries.
Ayew said the action taken by Fifa to have the Kenya vs Tunisia match on September 3 played behind closed doors was "for the good of football in the continent and not meant to victimise or undermine the Kenya's qualification campaign."
"It took the intervention of Fifa to act after it ran out of patience with CAF's ineptitude and complacency in handling hooliganism and deaths in stadiums," said Ayew at the Mathare Depot in Nairobi yesterday where he held a training session for Mathare Youth Sports Association players.
Ayew is in Kenya as part of his tour of African countries to promote the Supersport sports programming for the new soccer season. He is accompanied by the Supersport communications manager Ponga Liwewe. He said CAF should inspect stadiums and ensure security plans are in place before sanctioning any international matches.
"Caf should also take action against countries where acts of hooliganism have taken place to clamp down on the malpractice," he said.
He said security cannot be guaranteed unless the Caf officials inspect the state of the stadiums in advance before the match is played.
Pele who is in the country as part of a programmme by South African television channel Supersport was speaking at Mathare depot sports ground.
On July 25, Fifa ordered that Kenya's remaining home match against World Cup/ African Cup of Nations qualifier against Tunisia on September 3 be played in an empty stadium.
The decision was prompted by the death of a teenage fan in a stampede during the match between Kenya and Morocco on June 18 at Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi.
Earlier, Sports minister Ochillo Ayacko said the ban was undeserved as the penalty was stiffer compared to other countries in the Carribean and South Africa where more than one fan died yet Fifa did not take stern action.
He said the federation was poor and raising the Sh 1.5 million fine imposed by Fifa will be hard unless they are allowed collect the money through gate collections during the match by fans being allowed to attend.
The minister said the incident happened outside the gates and it did not affect any of the visiting team, match officials and the play in the field to warrant the disciplinary action.
He said by the World governing body basing the sentence on the match Commissar's report was wrong as it did not give Kenya a chance to defend itself.
"Fifa acted contrary to its slogan of fairplay by not sending in the country one of its officials to asses the situation before reporting back for an action to be taken," he said.
He said the decision was unilateral as the federation or the government were not granted an opportunity to give their side of the story.
Ayacko feared that the decision will impact negatively on Kenya in its bid to qualify for the African Cup of Nations (ACN) by being denied home ground advantage as well as denying the home fans a chance of cheering their national team at home.
The penultimate qualifier between Kenya/Tunisia seems to be generating a lot of interest because it will play a role in deciding who between Tunisia and Morocco qualifies for the World Cup as well as who between Kenya and Guinea books the third group five ACN berth.
Ayacko said the committee he had appointed to review the stadium safety in the country was due to hand in the report which will go a long way in adequately addressing insecurity in sports stadia.
At the same time former KFF secretary general Sam Nyamweya said the ban will serve as a wake up call to the federation in the organisation of all future matches being held in the country.
"It is very unfortunate an innocent fan had to lose his life because of mistakes committed by those in charge," he complained.
Nyamweya who is also Shabana's deputy patron said should Fifa accept or decline to rescind the decision is to ensure that stringent measures are put in place in future in order to avoid a repeat of other tragic incidents.
The KFF Mount Kenya senior vice chairman Martin Kiarie accused Fifa of having ulterior motives.
He said the world governing body wanted to give undue advantage to other teams to easily qualify for the World Cup and ACN at the expense of deserving teams.
He commanded the federation for moving fast in appealing against the sanctions and hoped that the decision will be reversed for an equal playing ground in the qualifiers.
"The KFF should not be blamed as the incident is not new in football sporting fraternity in the world and being the first case locally should first be cautioned," he advised.