Last Sunday was a remarkable day in Kenya’s recent football history. It might have been only a friendly match but the encounter between local premier league champions Gor Mahia and English Championship side Hull City drew one of the biggest crowds ever to assemble at Kasarani Sports Complex.
Everything went superlatively well, singularly so, the atmosphere and colour Gor fans are famous for. In the pitch, the hosts displayed why they have emerged as a force to reckon with.
Tactically and even technically, they outwitted, outpaced and dazed their English opponents in a match sponsored by SportPesa. Gor were, however, unlucky not to have won outright in regulation time and indeed lost in the subsequent penalty duel.
But in the end something stained the lively occasion. It came in the shameful, senseless and despicable vandalism of 89 stadium seats by hooligans. While it would be prejudicial to outrightly and exclusively point the accusing finger at Gor fans for the mayhem, we wish to emphasise that the imperative to tame hooliganism cannot be gainsaid.
Kenyans have witnessed deaths, nihilist destruction and life-threatening injuries inflicted by hooligans. The pledge by Sports Permanent Secretary Peter Kaberia to ensure enactment of anti-hooliganism policy must be undertaken pronto.
Football authorities, ranging from the federation itself to individual clubs, have failed spectacularly to deal with hooliganism. The line must now be drawn. Senseless indulgences are not part of what make football the beautiful game it is. Indeed, the surest way to stunt the game is to allow violence to take root as part of the sport. Just who will be foolish enough to attend football matches if bone or even life is imperilled?
Against the backdrop of measures announced by Kaberia, both Confederation of African Football (CAF) and world football body, Fifa, have decreed imposition of heavy sanctions on hooliganism especially during international matches.
Under our circumstances, it must start with football administrators rolling out new template where security agencies embrace much firmer approach in dealing with fans who might resort to hooliganism.
All the stadia should have turnstiles and under-cover officers who mingle with the fans to identity outlaws among genuine ones. Victory and loss are different sides of same coin in sports. It should never be that somebody can get away with endangering lives or destruction of property.
Kasarani has just undergone massive facelift at considerable cost. Let’s make it both expensive and painful for those with impulses and instincts that belong to lesser animals. Let football be about joy and merriment, not blood and tears.