Crowd Trouble- Has the Kenyan system failed the game?

News and reports that another KPL Top 8 fixture had to be stopped just before the full time whistle because of crowd trouble shouldn’t be news anymore- in fact it seems every season, a league match in Kenya has to be stopped or suspended because the 12th man’s views are ferried from the stands to the field of play. The end result though is always a mosaic of chaos, injuries and confusion as what seems to be “instant justice” meted on the offender in question.

While I must commend the local fan base for being tolerant in recent time and showing great constraint during some incidences- a few isolated cases like what happened between AFC Leopards and Chemelil FC must be condemned vehemently. I’m always for the view that the referee’s decision is final and in as much as we may feel hard done about them- justice needs to be pursued elsewhere and not on the pitch of play by any physical means meant to harm or shed blood.

But so now while we condemn the fans- why does this have to occur year in, year out. Campaigns such as “FOOTBALL IS A GAME – HOOLIGANISM IS A SHAME” were very good initiatives but did they ever see the light of day? We seem so much obsessed with stopping the vice when it comes to AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia but do we ever care about the other clubs- could it be because they command not a huge fan base like the above mentioned?
Injustices occur at every level of sport in this world, how they are dealt with differ from sport to sport, management to management, club to club and so on and so on. In the Kenyan game- It must be said some decisions made by our administration either at league/federation level leave so much bitter taste either in the fans/clubs mouths.
Surely I can’t be saying every decision must go ‘your’ way but can’t we have consistency in the way matters are dealt with. While I might not want to speak about the ruling this week about the other TOP 8 case involving Gor Mahia and Ulinzi stars- the reaction by the former to the ruling shows a club disappointed at the ruling of the highest level of footballing office they would complain to. While the former celebrates and boasts about it- let it not be forgotten that in a previous tournament clash involving the two- serious damages took place. In another incident that was actually a cup-final; jersey colours had to be actually changed a few hours to kick-off so one team had to use what they preferred.
It’s a tournament for crying out loud and rules need to be followed. While the rules might never have been published leaving lots of loopholes for clubs to ‘arm twist’ each other- it’s a pity that even the simplest of rules- things I would call normal; still have to be in print and paper for some quarters to follow them.
Away from the boardroom to the pitch where all the action takes place- I must say I was so delighted to note that while the league management might be turning a blind eye away from the truth, the fans know it. What do they know? The officiating levels have dropped tremendously. The match officials set themselves such a high standard in the past but over time it seems they have lost it and the fans are demanding for that to be brought back.
Fans will appreciate a thoroughly officiated match even though the score line might never go their way. I know the numbers game might affect the decision making at times but being the centre man/woman a lot of trust lies on that mint of air you put into the whistle to affirm a decision.
A perfect case example is the Sofapaka v Western Stima match at Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani. Shocking as it may seem but a serious blunder denied Kemboi a clearly headed goal- no offside, no tagging but the referee had it disallowed. Such decisions leave the fans with a bitter taste in the mouth. Western Stima might not have many fans but for neutrals- we all know it was 2 points denied for Western Stima and 1 point awarded to Sofapaka FC.
It’s now even much worse when fans in their online forums in unison talk about how much they would want a certain match official roughed up. Main reason- Blatant biasness. It even gets more interesting when the fans are not just from one club but more than two clubs with huge following in this country. Such a shame!
When last did you see the league suspend a referee, question a match official?…………………….

Back to the matter at hand- fans are people like you and me; Somebody’s father, mother, brother, sister, cousin, son, daughter. Each and every of these individuals deserve to go home safe and each deserves to enjoy a beautiful match of football. Actually let’s have it this way- it’s not a privilege, NO, It’s a right.  Just like any other right- someone who in any way threatens to take it away should meet the full arm of the law.

It’s thus a wonder hooligans walk away freely after matches and still join the fray during subsequent match days without being isolated.
In a report presented to KPL, The Kenya Football Stadia Safety and Security Survey on 20th January 2011; following an inquiry from the Kenya Premier League seeking assistance on how to develop and improve the safety and security levels of its six stadiums- G4S (a business unit of G4S Secure Solutions UK & Ireland) recommend after visiting six stadiums security measures that need to be taken to help control crowds during matches. The report actually comes after the case in which a few years ago- a few fans lost their lives at Nyayo Stadium during a derby match pitting Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards after a stampede.
At the bottom of this piece I will attach the full report but just to touch on a few things- it was recommended that CCTV cameras be mounted at the match venues (in and out) to help in crowd control. You are a witness to the above; if there are any it’s for you to tell.
Another recommendation that stood out was the need to have an internal working PA system or external system to assist in communicating information in normal or emergency situations; a thing I’m yet to see. While we have a PA system during matches it can hardly be heard by those sitting at the opposite end of the main stand.
I might go on and on but it’s clear we are our shooting our own selves in the feet. Nobody is going to bring sanity to this game if we don’t take a step and get serious with how we manage our game.
While credit must be given to areas in which the fans, clubs and even the management to some level have offered a helping hand in reducing cases of hooliganism and crowd trouble, I partly see our own game as somewhat wet behind the ears on certain subjects. The league is still growing, mistakes will take place from time to time but on instances where we can correct- in instances where we can have a change of mind even if it manes losing a few jobs just for the love of the game; let it be done.
But until then- let’s brace ourselves for more of these. A few bloody ones maybe (though I pray not), others not so sweet to the eyes and even a few costly consequences.
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