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Hooliganism corrupting football in Ethiopia

Hooliganism corrupting football in Ethiopia

Derby football matches everywhere have a different color to them. They are fiercely contested, to say the least. But, this contest is not limited to the football pitch; often fans too get swept away by emotion. Hence, derby matches hardly end without a major incident occurring between the rival clubs or their fans.

Whether protesting referee decisions or other issues, activities of football fans constitute a major part in the animated nature of derby matches around the world. And the worst case scenario would be football hooliganism.   

Football hooliganism is the term used to describe disorderly, violent or destructive behavior of spectators at a football event. Some sources define it as conflict that may take place during or after matches.

Certain clubs have long-standing rivalries with one another and of course a history of hooliganism associated with matches between them. In fact, hooliganism is likely to be more severe during local derbies.

Unlike top European football leagues, football hooliganism is on the rise in Ethiopian Premier League (EPL). And these days, hooliganism is becoming a growing concern in the face of severe human injuries and property damages in the local derby matches.

The 12th Addis Ababa City Cup Final match that was held on October 22, 2017 between St. George FC and Ethiopia Coffee FC went down in history as one of the most saddening matches in Ethiopia after seeing scores of spectators sustain heavy injuries during the matches.

The game went well in the first half. However, afterwards, many supporters from both sides were critically injured following a clash that was triggered by hours of verbal confrontation and curses between the two spectators. The injured are now under medical care in different hospitals.

These two clubs have always been in fierce rivalry, and clashed at different occasions.  Many suggest that this clash is a bad indication to the upcoming primer league season.

Prior to the match date, especially on October 22, both clubs’ supporters through their associations have been in discussion on how to calm down supporters and how to ensure the peaceful completion of the game. Yet, on game day, all the correspondence couldn’t make any difference.

St. George’s new signee, Ebrahim Fofana, scored the first goal one minute before the end of first half. Fofana’s goal changed the vibe of the entire match. Katanga, one side of the stadium where both fans sit in close proximity, has always been the place where conflicts start inside Addis Ababa Stadium.

After the goal, spectators from both sides started to use vulgar language and got into verbal confrontation. Then, the referees were forced to suspend the match for about 45 minutes.

All in all, 39 people were reported to have been injured in Sunday’s match, where nine of them are still under critical condition. Five of the injured were sent to Bethzatha Hospital for further treatment and four of them are receiving critical medical attention at Zewdtiu Hospital.

Medical professional at “Tebita Ambulance, Sister Mignot Zerihun told The Reporter that after the clash they were forced to add more ambulances and nurses at the site as the number of casualties kept mounting.

It was also reported that among the injured, four of them were members of the security force which were overwhelmed by the clash at the stadium.

After the incident, The Reporter visited the hospitals where the injured are receiving treatments. Hence, it was learnt that some of the injured got transferred to Black Lion Referral Hospital.

According to injured spectators, which The Reporter visited at Zewditu Hospital, the attack was much worse outside the stadium. Some even blame the ill-prepared security forces for the escalation of the clash.

After the incident, many sports experts, social media commentators, and fans’ associations were suggesting various mechanisms to minimize the conflict between the two capital city clubs. The two rivalries have animated the EPL for the past 40 years. They also have thousands of fans to their names unlike regional clubs.

According to commentators, the Katanga seats should be fenced. However, some football fans at the national stadium believe that erecting a fence is not a solution.

Solomon Teshome, an Electric FC fan, who has been a loyal spectator for more than 15 years, says; “I think it is not enough to fence the Katanga seats. All spectator associations and their leaders should discuss and take responsibility for their supporters in order to control the situation,” he said.

“All fans need to have an ID (identification Card) of their club when they come to watch matches in the stadiums,” Solomon added.

According to some spectators, the recent incident was also a danger to the players and the match officials. The national stadium has also sustained heavy property damages due to Sunday’s football hooliganism.

Elsewhere, EPL matches held in regional stadiums have seen problem all season. In the 2015/16 EPL season, a match between Dashen Beer and Ethiopia Coffee ended in confrontation with supporters from both sides critically injured. Similar episodes were observed in Hawassa, Arba Minch and Adama stadiums during the 2015/16 EPL season. Ethiopia Coffee spectators were involved in the majority of these confrontations.

Regardless, Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) has the mandate to find a solution to manage the conflict and institute punishment on the clubs involved in such incidents. Following the latest brawl between the Addis Ababa city clubs the Ethiopian football governing body stated that it investigating the situation.

Nevertheless, football hooliganism, especially among fans of Addis Ababa-based clubs, is far too frequent. In fact, it has been an issue for the past two decades between St. George and Ethiopia Coffee.

An Ethiopia Coffee fan that The Reporter met in Bethzatha Hospital believes that things tend to get a bit harsher on his fellow Coffee fans every time an incident occurred inside stadiums. “Even security forces always hold us responsible,” he said.

Besides all of this, several sports experts also indicated that the way coaches manage their teams most of the time is not what the fans want, which eventually leads to the fans lashing out in certain way. It is homework for coaches for the upcoming EPL season.

Football administrative authorities in various countries have taken a number of steps like banning identified hooligans from stadiums to curb the problem. Segregating opposing fans and fencing enclosures to keep fans away from each other on and off the pitch are among the ways of fighting football hooliganism. For the upcoming 2017/18 EPL season, the federation should consider the situation strictly and put some measures in place, commentators agree.