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Sports Features of Thursday, 9 May 2019

Source: www.jeromeotchere.com

18 years after May 9th stadium disaster: No lessons learnt

This is a sad commentary. Perhaps an unpopular position or a harsh stance. However, you will describe it, my view is that, 18 years after the Accra Sports Stadium disaster that tragically ended the lives of 127 fans following a Hearts-Kotoko league game, no lessons have been learnt.

Losing hundreds of people, who had just gone to entertain themselves at the stadium under such catastrophic circumstances was unacceptable. It was a painful day in the history of Ghana football. The refrain was never again. Never again because there can be no justification for losing lives in that manner.

With that horrible experience, the assumption was that, we would have firmly held onto the never again mantra and shirk any behaviour that endangers lives and property at the stadium. Sadly, in the 18 years, what we have witnessed leaves me with the conviction that, the battle against violence is being lost and it is not difficult to explain why.

Fans continue to be uncivilised in the attitude they put up at the stadium. If they are not hurling objects unto the field in protest of perceived bad refereeing, they are ripping seats and these are the very acts that triggered the May 9 stadium tragedy.

While the Ghana Football Association (GFA), through its Disciplinary Committee, has tried to instill discipline into the game by punishing clubs for the misbehaviour of their fans; even banning match venues; I am convinced that, that approach by the GFA has been woefully unhelpful.

I acknowledge the essence of the GFA regulations and the accompanying punishments for violence at the stadium but I dare say that, when fans show reckless behaviour; harm or hurt people physically, destroy state or private property; fines and sanctions on clubs cannot be the appropriate response.

It becomes a matter of criminality in that instance. Culprits must be arrested, prosecuted and jailed if found guilty. I do not think our security system has done enough to combat the canker of violence in our football. And that is a big problem.

I wish not for another May 9 but then our authorities must wake up to the reality that, 18 years after the horrific 2001 incident, we have not learnt lessons good enough to minimise or end violence in our game.