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ZIFA and PSL have come out guns firing in condemning the worrying development of hooliganism which reached its ugly head in the semi-finals match between Highlanders and Caps United at Barbourfields last Sunday.

The organisations’ two chiefs condemned the violence that took place with promises of harsh punishment to be instituted to those who will be found on the wrong side of the law.

ZIFA CEO, Jonathan Mashingaidze promised to “make this case an example ahead of the start of the 2015 Premiership season”.

“We have to send a g message to everyone that we do not tolerate any unruly behaviour from a faction of supporters at our stadiums. As ZIFA, we gly condemn any unruly behaviour of supporters at our stadia. The safety and security of both supporters and players at games remains our priority.

“This has been going on for some time and it’s high time we put an end to it. We are waiting for a report for a report from the match officials and once we have it, judgment will be passed”, Mashingaidze was quoted as saying in one of the daily newspapers.

His counterpart at PSL, Kenny Ndebele promised to tackle the issue at the league’s Annual General Meeting scheduled for this weekend.

“This is a serious matter which the board should deliberate on. It’s one item which the board can’t miss”, Mr Ndebele was quoted as saying in the same daily.

Indeed, bold words from the custodians of our beautiful game and one expect them to follow them up with serious action. Cases of hooliganism have gone unpunished for some time now and it is time that serious and deterrent action is taken on perpetrators before it gets out of hand.

Generally, Zimbabwean football fans are a peaceful and passionate lot but there have been isolated incidents where some unruly and overzealous characters have taken rivalry to unnecessary lengths. Fortunately, this is just but a small faction and with deterrent measures it can be stopped.

As one of the victims of football hooliganism, I know how it feels when you are attacked by a group of overzealous fans influenced by mob psychology. It is unfortunate that without conscious knowledge these otherwise peaceful people might go on and injure or even murder someone and regret later.

I was a victim whilst playing for Sporting Lions in a play-off game against Gutu Leopards at Mucheke in 2002. What started as an unnecessary complaint to match officials by one Gutu Leopards official turned into violence by the home team fans on us and the match officials.

Luckily, we escaped with few bruises, but surprisingly no action was taken on the perpetrator besides his identity being known and witnesses prepared to testify.

Many cases of football violence have been reported countrywide and in some cases there have been serious casualties and deaths. The worrying case is that some teams have been synonymous with these cases of football violence.

In the last few years CAPS United, Dynamos and Highlanders have featured regularly in football violence. Masvingo United was also involved in the fans’ battles, but the team has since gone bust. The three teams mentioned earlier are the torch-bearers of Zimbabwean football and as such are expected to act as our football’s ambassadors.

The main reason for some of violence to happen when these three teams meet is the intense rivalry that exists among them. In most cases the rivalry hasn’t gone further than mere mockery through songs and chants. In the few instances that it degenerated into running battles, police have managed to take charge and maintain order.

However, the recent happenings at Barbourfields are worrying in that they seem to be organised and pre-meditated. The pictures that have been doing rounds in the social circles paint a disturbing picture of fans not just going to enjoy a football match only, but also well-equipped to participate in “traditional style” battles.

Pictures of fans carrying knobkerries and catapults are quite disturbing to say the least. And in my thinking these are the unruly elements that need to be uprooted from our otherwise peaceful and harmonious stadiums. And that behaviour needs to be nipped in the bud before it gets out of hand.

I hope the custodians of our game will use the BF case to set an example on would be perpetrators. They have promised to take action and we expect them to walk the talk. And pictures and videos are there on the social scene and media houses to be used to uproot the culprits.

However, I have simple suggestions that I think if implemented religiously they would result in total eradication of serious football violence at our football matches.

Increased Police Presence

The police office per spectators ratio at all games should be set out at a certain minimum that shouldn’t be breached at any time for whatever reason. Cognisance should be taken of teams playing, aerial volatility and game importance.

Zimbabweans are peace loving and law abiding citizens such that police presence within certain radius can easily act as a deterrent to those who would otherwise break the law in absence of police in their proximity.

Certainly, games between CAPS United, Dynamos and Highlanders should have more police presence than others.

It is also imperative that certain areas in the stadium should have more police presence than others. Areas like Soweto at Barbourfields and Vietnam at Rufaro should certainly have more police details stationed than other areas.

It is also worth noting that certain games like championship deciding matches and cup finals should have increased police presence. It is at such matches that emotions tend to run high and wild.

It is also important that those deployed to man at football stadiums should act with vigilance and diligence expected of our capable police personnel rather than use it as a chance to watch football.

Fans’ inspection at entry points

I have witnessed many incidences where fans are allowed to enter stadiums with items that can be turned into missiles. Somehow bottles, stones and knobkerries find their way into the football stands.

This can only be as a result of lack of thoroughness by the stewards and police details that man the stadium entry points. People found with such items should not be allowed into the stadium and that would significantly reduce the numbers that would want to take chances to do so.

Another thing that we have been taking for granted is to allow plastic bottled drinks and water as well as food (especially boned meat) to be consumed in the stands. Consequentially, we have found bones, bottled water and drinks and canned drinks being used as weapons. Use of plastic tumblers for liquids’ consumption can go a long way in reducing the missile throwing problem.

Legislation

This might look as far-fetched, but there is need to look at introducing laws that deal with football hooliganism rather than perpetrators being treated the same way as normal violence.

Deterrent punishment

It goes without saying that harsh punishment on perpetrators of hooliganism will act as a major deterrent to would-be perpetrators. As it is, no individual or club has been punished hard enough for others to take note and use that as an example and warning.

It seems our football custodians have been handling such cases with kids’ gloves. It is high time that they tackle this issue with the seriousness it deserves.

Already, we have a worrying issue where not many women and kids come to stadiums because of unruly elements and rowdy behaviour. Football is a family game and the environment should exemplify such.

We want football matches to be treated as dates’ venues the same way cinemas, restaurants and clubs are treated.

Source : The Herald

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