Sports News of Sunday, 17 December 2000
Source: African Soccer Magazine
Hearts of Oak won their return leg final in the CAF Champions' League 3-1 in Accra against Esp?rance of Tunisia on Sunday, to lift Africa's most prestigious club trophy. With it, they clinched their ticket to the $8m FIFA Club World Championship in Spain next June. But once again an African flagship final was tainted by the whiff of teargas.
There was always a danger that politics would intervene, given that Ghana is between the first and second rounds of a closely-fought presidential election. Vice-President John Atta-Mills competes in a run-off against veteran opposition leader John Kufuor, in a week's time.
Mr Kufuor was not invited to the stadium, and despite threats to appear with the supporters in the stands seems not to have turned up. But sections of the crowd did not appreciate it when the Vice-President - until recently a director of Hearts of Oak - entered the stadium wearing Hearts' rainbow colours.
It was 20 minutes into the second half when a movement of supporters was suddenly noticed in a section of the stadium above the VIP stand. Teargas appears to have been fired into that section of the crowd, and almost immediately more canisters were fired directly into the official stand.
It was a matter of pure good fortune that nobody was killed or badly hurt, as officials and journalists were trampled underfoot in the rush to get away from the gas, and into the hospitality lounge.
It remains unclear exactly what had happened. Some talked of trigger-happy police, others of sabotage.
Eventually, order was restored and the match finished 3-1, giving Hearts an easy 5-2 victory on aggregate. But with the whiff of teargas still hanging over the stadium, and Tunisian goalkeeper Chokri el Ouaer injured and out of the game for most of the second half, it was a troubling victory.
A month ago, the final of the African women's championship finished in chaos after fans went on the rampage. In July, a dozen fans died in the crush after trigger-happy Zimbabwean police fired teargas into the crowd during a World Cup qualifier against South Africa. Now violence has disrupted what should have been the joyful culmination of Africa's football year.
Hearts have their pot of gold, but it is stained with tears.