Acts of hooliganism are slowly crippling back into the local football scene with the Premier Soccer League having recorded a number of such negative events this season.
The first ever incident this season was during the Chibuku Super Cup semi-final pitting Dynamos and eventual winners FC Platinum when Dynamos security marshals wanted to take matters into their own hands after they felt undone by the referee.
A similar incident was recorded in the first division when a referee (Hardly Ndazi) was assaulted by angry fans, followed by the close to 15 minutes’ protest by Dynamos players and officials against a penalty that was awarded to Bulawayo Chiefs, then the fist fight between Simba Bhora and Chegutu Pirates players, not forgetting the throwing of water bottles at the Uhuru final at Barbourfields Stadium and recently the pitch invasion at Mandava by angry Highlanders fans.
All these actions add to the woes that are being faced by local football and at the same time serve as a bad advertisement of the game that has been finding it hard to attract the large numbers that it attracted in yesteryears.
Soccer analyst Cuthbert Kuture believes that some of the actions are a result of inconsistency in officiating.
“The root of all these shenanigans has been inconsistency from match officials, not that I’m condoning violence but football is just like religion; it’s a very delicate and sensitive subject, there’s loads of emotions and feelings involved so people will react when poked,” Kuture told Review & Mail Sports.
Some fans believe that a quick solution is required to curb the cancer before soccer fans or players get seriously injured or worse still, lose lives to such barbaric acts.
Over the years, football fathers have been preaching that those who cause chaos at stadiums should be apprehended and prosecuted, but it seems as mere talk as no one is yet to be sent to jail or punished for crowd trouble.
After the incident at Mandava, the Premier Soccer League condemned acts of violence and hooliganism at match venues.
“The PSL is concerned about the acts of violence and hooliganism in football and is currently engaging all relevant stakeholders to find a lasting solution. We urge clubs to engage their supporters to refrain from breaching PSL Rules and Regulations to ensure safety at football matches. Fans should be aware that the referee’s decision is final. Encroaching onto the pitch before, during and after a match is an offence that results in a serious punishment for clubs. While we do not condone violence, we would like to note that we have received numerous complaints regarding the performance 0f match officials at PSL matches and we implore the ZIFA Referees Committee to seriously look into the matter,” read a statement by the PSL.
Kuture believes clubs should take it upon themselves and employ stadium stewards who will join forces with the police as well as teach their fans on the importance of maintaining order.
“Clubs need to employ stewards of their own that man their supporters with the help of police details. Clubs need to involve club supporters’ chapters and cognitise supporters on the need to maintain order,” Kuture said.
Clubs have played their part in trying to educate their fans on how to behave in a sporting manner at football matches, but they cannot control all of them and a stance should be taken so that the game doesn’t lose its beauty. Such proactive measures eventually shape and influence fans’ behavior, especially in showing great sportsmanship, maturity and humility both in victory and in defeat.