The weekend saw the start of the 2011-12 Kenya Premier League after a well-deserved break. A look at most the fixtures scheduled for the first 2 days looked more or less like foregone conclusions - except for the Mathare United v/s Sofapaka & AFC Leopards v/sTusker FC fixtures.
Our interest though is in a fixture that most pundits had given to favourite Gor Mahia – who enjoy fanatical following from their fans. It was against newly promoted but without corporate sponsor, (Posta) Rangers.
Come the start of the match and you would have been wrong to think the other way round. By the half-time break, Rangers were 2-0 up and deservedly so. Into the 82nd minute, they crown an unassailable lead and the Gor Mahia fans who were all along taunting the female linesperson start throwing missiles into the pitch. Soon one of the barriers is down & they are running into the pitch.
For the safety of the players, the referee calls off the game and the police are called in and as usually happens when they come in throw tear-gas to disperse the rowdy fans.
Last year, the Gor Mahia fans were among the most flamboyant and loyal fans following their team towns such as Thika, Naivasha and Nakuru. They are among the loudest and most organized of fans for any football team playing in the KPL. But they can also lose their cool and control at the first signs of a loss. Last year they forced other clubs fans all sorts of taunts at times even snatching their tools of trade. During a late match-up between Gor and AFC Leopards, we all remember what happened though more blame would go the Sports Stadia Management Board, security and ticketing arrangements.
Hooligans (because at best that’s what we would describe the game), have been known to cost many leagues across the world their attraction. The English, Italian and Spanish have been some of the more prominent ones and have come up with stringent measures to ensure the rule of the game is observed on the pitch and off it.
Fans in this part of the world had deserted the stadiums but with last year’s lure they came back in small trickles before coming back in bigger droves towards the end of the League. Over the break many clubs have registered official fans clubs and you can find them in social media channels for your favourite club.
But they too must learn the rules of the game and unfortunately the very club(s) they support suffer first. Our suggestion once investigations are finalized( hope hastily), is first dock points (between 5-9) of course losing the game they disrupted, play 2-3 ‘home’ games without fans and also pay a cash penalty. This will ensure club officials are able to manage the fans, isolate and discipline the unruly ones.
KPL also needs to buttress the security arrangements available in the stadiums. From what happened on Saturday, the melee would have had severe casualties and the stadium would once again stare upon another ban from either CAF or FIFA.
Officiating also needs to be raised a notch higher. The charade of referees and linesmen giving contentious decisions will only incense fans who look for the slightest provocation. We have not had the best of officials coming from our country but this can be changed this season.
All in all, why should a whole League be held ransom by a group of fans from a single club?