Joel Omotto @omottojoel
No doubt you are familiar with the famous phrase “football is a gentleman’s game played by thugs” or words to that effect. However, in Kenya, football has for many years been a gentleman’s game watched by thugs.
This is due to the unruly behaviour of fans who find nothing wrong with throwing objects on the pitch, beating up security and match officials and stoning motorists whenever their team has lost.
These incidents have given Kenyan football a bad image while those in charge have yet to come up with ways of curbing the issue. But Kenyan football fans and administrators can perhaps learn from their German counterparts since in the Bundesliga, hooliganism is an unknown vocabulary.
In Germany, match day is treated like a carnival of sorts where families and friends meet, have fun and watch the match before the party continues hours after the final whistle.
These families include children, youth and the elderly and they all enjoy without the fear of being stoned, shoved or teargas canisters being lobbed in their direction.
Unlike in Kenya where fans cause havoc to other motorists on their way to the stadium, Germans walk or drive peacefully to the match venue, get a drink or bite from the club’s restaurant before taking their seats (based on the type of ticket) at least 30 minutes to kick off.
“What has really helped us a lot is the behaviour of our fans. Hooliganism is unheard of here so nobody worries about that. You can come with your children have fun after the match go home without fear of anyone hitting you,” says Henning Brinkmann, the sales manager for audiovisual Bundesliga rights in Europe and Africa.
Indeed, a group of African journalists who visited Germany to witness first hand how the Bundesliga operates were left in awe last week after watching two live matches including Bayern Munich versus Frankfurt at Allianz Arena and Mainz against RB Leipzig at the Opel Arena where no incident was witnessed.
“Here, fans have a way of expressing their anger when not happy with something. They will scream, say unprintable words but will not throw anything,” adds Brinkmann.
However, while the Bundesliga is thankful to the behaviour of their fans, they have not slept on their laurels. All stadiums both in the top flight and second tier have cameras that capture anyone who throws objects and the culprits are normally arrested just a few hour after the match.
“We have a system which has allowed us to blacklist all hooligans. Once we know who they are, they are never allowed in the stadium and police are always watching where they stay so if they attempt to get out on match day, they won’t go far,” says Brinkmann on how they have managed to neutralize fan trouble.
Besides these measures, it also mandatory to have ambulances, police, stewards, fire engines and Red Cross personnel who come in hundreds or even thousands at every match venue just incase an incident happens.
Unlike in Kenya where we have a few police officers and stewards who are always outnumbered by fans, one ambulance, if any, and even no fire or Red Cross personnel, the Germans take these things seriously and never compromise on the safety of fans.