Virtually 19 years since May 9th, and no lessons learnt

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Erstwhile president of Ghana John Dramani Mahama once said “Ghanaians have short memories”, the statement might seem contentious, but it is a statement of fact. Ghanaians have short memory, not only in terms of the positives. We have short memories even in remembering the negatives. We continue to do the same things that brought doom on us in the past.

On Wednesday, 9th May 2001. Ghana was hit with one of the worst Stadium disasters ever in the world football. The ghastly incident tragically ended the lives of 127 football fans and left lots badly injured. It was a painful day in the history of Ghana, Africa and global football.

On the day, Hearts of Oak were leading Asante Kotoko by 2 goals to 1 and with only few minutes left to play. The Hearts fans were idyllic, their club has risen from the clutches of defeat like a Phoenix from the ashes. The fans couldn’t hide the euphoric feeling of scoring two late goals against arch rivals. It was a different feeling for the fans of Asante Kotoko, they were despondent.

The despondent and infuriated Kotoko fans went berserk, they started hurdling projectiles onto the field to register their displeasure to the referee for allowing the second goal for Hearts which they deemed to be offside to stand. The police responded by firing tear gas into the crowd. Panic and a stampede ensued as fans tried to escape. Gates were locked. The panicked and agitated fans had nowhere to go, they had nowhere to seek refuge, they were running from the people tasked to protect them. Hell broke loose. Death was on rampage.

Virtually 19 years since the heartbreaking incident transpired and the only question that still runs through my mind is have we learnt from the incident? A question i don’t even need to call on anyone to answer because the answer is evident, it is written on the wall. We still haven’t learnt our lessons, hooliganism in Ghana football persists. It is spreading like wildfire in spite all the lessons at our disposal.

Just recently in a game between Asante Kotoko and Berekum Chelsea, referee mistakenly showed a Kotoko player a second yellow and then a red after an incident happened between a different Kotoko player and a Berekum Chelsea player. The Kotoko fans started to show their displeasure by throwing projectiles onto the field, an appalling and unsporting event which led to one fan being shot and left badly injured.

In 2014, a 21 year old referee, Kwame Andoh Kyei was gruesomely murdered, he was beaten to death by fans after awarding a late minute penalty in a Division 2 League game between Najoe United and Gold Stars.

In May, 2019. Theresa Bremansu, a female referee was beaten to the pulp by prison officers for not adding “additional time” in a game between Prison Ladies and Ampem Darkoa Ladies.

There are many other incidents of hooliganism in Ghana football. The ill act continues to infect Ghana football and has become a drawback from the elite league, through to the lower leagues and even in university football. Last week during the GUSA games, some disgruntled students chased after a referee after he booked one of their players.

In spite of the myriad of lessons at our disposal, the uncultured and ill mannered act continues to infect our beautiful game of football. Football fans continue to be uncivilized with the attitude they put up at the Stadium. If they are not caught hurdling projectiles onto the field to injure the referee/their own player/opposition player, then they are ripping off seats or fighting amongst themselves in the stands, and these are the very acts that triggered the May 9th Stadium disaster.

It’ll be inequitable of me not to acknowledge the efforts of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and that of the Disciplinary Committee to help combat the canker of violence that continues to ruin our football, but i’m much convinced that the efforts and strategies deployed haven’t been enough. Stern measures needs to be adopted.

It is indeed time that violence at stadiums is seen as an issue of criminality, it should be handled just like issues of theft, rape etc. committals of this ghastly act should be arrested, arranged before court and jailed if found guilty. Clubs whose fans are involved in this act should be banned, fined heavily and if possible deducted points. The GFA and all clubs across the country should from time to time organize seminars to aptly educate fans and remind them of the ramifications of being violent at the stadium.

It is my hope and prayer that the issue of hooliganism soon becomes a thing of the past, I wish not to see another May 9th.

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