Ghanaian soccer fans ask for stewards at stadia

Accra, May 14 (IANS) Ghanaian soccer-loving fans called for the introduction of stewards in the various stadia to ensure the safety of spectators and match officials.

The call came Monday, a few days after Ghana marked 12 years of the May 9 Accra Sports Stadium Disaster that claimed the lives of 127 soccer fans in 2001, reports Xinhua.

The tragic incident occurred during a local premier league match between Ghana’s two most successful football clubs, Accra Hearts of Oak and arch rivals Kumasi Asante Kotoko.

The police fired tear gas into the stands in their efforts to control rioting fans after Hearts overturned a one-goal deficit to lead 2-1, resulting in a stampede in which more than 100 fans were killed.

Hundreds more fans were seriously injured during the incident described by aficionados of the game as Africa’s worst stadium disaster and the world’s third worst.

Aziz Haruna Futah, chief supporter of Accra Hearts of Oak, said the stewards would help control crowd hooliganism at the stadiums and help provide serene environment for the fans.

“It is about time we introduced stewards into the stands of stadiums to ensure the safety of spectators. These stewards can also help arrest hooligans and hand them over to the police as they have in Europe and other places,” he told Xinhua in an interview.

Stewards help match organisers or stadium management to apply the stadium rules to ensure the safety of spectators, a role that is distinct but complementary to that of the police.

The concept of stewarding, which has spread throughout several European countries, allows match organizers to meet public expectations by generating a feeling of security among the spectators.

Police intervention can then be called upon to deal with more serious or criminal incidents.

“Believe me; if there were stewards in the stands, these fans would not have thrown anything onto the pitches because they would make sure that they get them arrested and handed over to the police,” he said.

Acknowledging that a lot had changed since the 2001 tragedy, Futah said the Professional League Board (PLB), organisers of league matches in Ghana, needed to do more to stem spectator violence.

Iliasu Abubakar, who lost a friend to the disaster at the age of 15, condemned violence in football and called on soccer fans to never allow hooliganism to creep into the country’s fine football.

“May 9 is dear to our hearts and we have been preaching against any violence or disturbances that could lead to a reoccurrence.

“We need to arrest and prosecute violent club followers to serve as a deterrent to others so that it will not be repeated again. All of us need to stamp our feet on hooliganism,” Iliasu said.

Ghana’s premier league has over the past two weeks been characterised by violence and crowd hooliganism, with fans spotted openly assaulting club officials.

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