Some days are meant to be lived once but some will forever remain. It was a Wednesday and I recall getting home from primary school amidst the pouring rains. “Forget the downpour, Hearts and Kotoko will be playing” was my mind’s tune all that while.
Tender and tiny as I was, football discussions in class were never to be lost and I couldn’t stand Eric Kudior’s tease if Kotoko lost this game. At least I had a deep enough voice to be heard. As I sat behind the windows of the sitting room listening to radio commentary on the game, my spirit was far away at the Accra Sports Stadium. A drawn game looked set until the legendary Ishmael Addo netted the winner which drew arguments even on the airwaves.
Talks of an offside was effervescent but the goal had been scored. Then came the real deal! Agitating, fans decided to manifest their displeasure by hurling everything the hand could handle on to the pitch. The Police stepped in and in a bid to reverse the fans’ violence, shot “tear gases” into the crowd.
The gates were narrow and fans’ were left contemplating on what was to become of their somewhat hollow and fragile souls. Death and injuries came knocking. The struggle for live was real.
The experience on this day, like the Hillsborough Disaster was to be learnt from. It informed subsequent security provisions at games with considerations to the size and number of gates at the stadium also realized in subsequent designs.
It was the 9th of May, 2001. A Black Wednesday! The worst day in African football then for any supporter. Calls from relatives abroad roped in on countless numbers the next morning and I knew what was at stake. Like they say, the sound of the rain needs no translation. 127 lives were lost with a majority others sustaining hospitalizing injuries. No justice was however served to any of the Policemen involved in the hasty gun firing with a fund set up for the victims.
20 years down the line and absolutely, not enough seems to have been learnt. Crowd violence is rather on the upward trajectory regardless of the Awareness Walks. Embedded in the minds of most home fans, anything must be done to win even if intimidating must be considered. The “win-or-die” approach to games by these fans will never cease with the game being one for pride and passion. Anything to win must be employed, from sprinkling of concoctions to influencing match officials and the luck of the day.
Monetary sanctions and point deduction have been often meted out but it doesn’t seem deterring enough. Faithed up by the ‘Number 12’ exposé, it will be hard to simply put these fans off without being pragmatic and innovative.
The ‘British Disease’ is curable. One would argue that it has a positive impact on games- referees succumbing to pressure to give most calls to the home side et al, it also affects match day revenue aside the likelihood of fatalities.
Evidently, a higher surveillance -stewarding, policing and CCTV use, coupled with tougher laws- banning alcohol usage, will be relevant to stemming the cancerous canker. A dedicated Ghanaian path must be sought for.
In a quest to norm our game, a steady cure to this disease must be dosed. Recent happenings in the GFA Special Competition, Premier League and National Division One League calls for that flame to be watered down. Lives are never equal to 3 points. No!
- Gyamfi Din-Chin “The Writer”