On May 9 2001, 126 Ghanaian soccer loving fans lost their lives at the Accra Sports Stadium where they went to watch a football match between Hearts and Kotoko.
The horrific incident which became known as the May 9 Stadium Disaster, occurred when some supporters of Kotoko contested a goal which was allowed to stand by the referee. They protested that Ismael Addo, who scored the goal was in an offside position, and therefore wanted the referee to disallow it, but their calls were ignored.
In the process tempers flared, leading to fierce protestations as the supporters of Kotoko felt that the referee had cheated their idol club. Some of the fans became emotionally charged as the protestations escalated, leading to a breakout of violence.
The police in an attempt to control the charged crowd, fired tear gas, which forced many of the supporters at the stadium to flee, leading to total chaos. Due to the massive inhalation of tear gas and the narrow exit ways, many of the supporters got caught up in a stampede.
Obviously many of the victims of the horrific incident were arguably breadwinners of their families as well as parents.
It is also foreseeable that many able persons who went to the stadium came out of the chaotic and disastrous scene disabled, while some aged parents also died due to depression and stress arising from the tragedy.
Again, the disaster caused many wives to be widows and many children became fatherless.
Due to the severity of the incident that became one of the world’s worst football tragedies, Ghanaians solemnly mark the event annually. Though wreaths are laid to remember the departed souls yearly, it appears that very little or no lessons at all have been learned.
This is because we continue to see acts of hooliganism at the various league centers almost two decades after the deadly disaster happened.
These scenes of violence that often break out during and after matches attest to the fact our memories about the deadly stadium disaster are short-lived. With just four months to mark yet another solemn remembrance of the souls that perished during the May 9 disaster in Accra, a near fatal incident almost occurred at Kumasi on Sunday.
Supporters of Kotoko felt cheated by the referee Charles Bulu, who officiated their 3rd week league fixture against visiting Berekum Chelsea, as they were not comfortable with some of his decisions.
Some irate supporters had issues with the officiating officials, therefor threatened to teach them a bitter lesson.
In protest, viral videos show that sachets of water were thrown unto the pitch by some irate fans, while others also chased the referee immediately after the final whistle.
According to initial statement by the police, some law enforcers were called to maintain order shortly after the game.
In the ensuing commotion, a policeman was said to have fired a rubber bullet straight into the face of a fan which has led to the damage of his right eye. We at The Chronicle continue to wonder why Ghanaians as a people have failed to take a cue from what happened at the Accra Sports Stadium years back.
It has always been our firm belief that the horrific disaster that occurred in Accra was going to serve as a strong deterrent any time we visit the stadium.
However just the opposite continues to be the case. We therefor wish to stress that our desire to whip the interest of people to visit the various stadia cannot be achieved if acts of violence continue to occur.
In our view, our desire to bring back the love of the game requires a strong determination to end violence at the league centers, unbiased officiating, impartial judgement on the part of the Football Association (FA), and instilling greater discipline.
We therefore like to praise the FA, for taking swift action against Kotoko by serving them with temporary home ban.
This swift action, we hope, would not be a nine day wonder, but would be replicated across the board any time any person(s) commits a similar offense.
We also wish to urge the FA to further interrogate the action of the referee and punish him if he got it wrong, or praise him if he was right.
We also wish to urge all stakeholders to abide by the rules of the game, so that together, we can resurrect the local league.