During the Tusker Premier League awards gala, Sports Minister Hassan Wario clashed with FKF chairman Sam Nyamweya on the issue of hooliganism. Nyamweya, who spoke before inviting the cabinet secretary, blamed football violence on the government, accusations that Wario did not take lying down.
“I am appealing to the government to help set up a special anti-hooliganism police unit, the way it has helped set up other special units to deal with various vices. We have tourist police and military police, we could set a similar one to deal with hooliganism” he said.“The federations and clubs have no capacities to stamp out hooliganism. This is crime that should be dealt with by the government through the police force.”
“We have been disappointed in the past because police have failed us. Look at the case on Sunday (Gor versus AFC Leopards GOtv Shield final). Police reported to duty late at 11am. The dynamics surrounding hooliganism are complex and it’s only the police who have the powers to arrest and prosecute. The federation doesn’t have the capacity and neither do clubs,” Nyamweya added.
A fuming and stung Wario then took to the podium to hit back at Nyamweya as well as the top clubs, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards.
“As a government we cannot take rubbish of finger pointing when mistake is on your side (federation and clubs). The government does not throw stones, neither does it uproot chairs in the stadium.”
“We give you our facilities to use in good state and you destroy it. During the Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards match I saw a Gor fan uproot a chair and hurl it. Is that a failure of the government,” he charged.
“I insist clubs must rein in on their fans. We cannot have cases where fans vandalise and destroy property and then the government is to blame.”
“We cannot have a special unit to deal with hooliganism. It is not there in France, neither is it there in Germany.”
Nyamweya is spot on
Neither the clubs nor the federation has the capacity to stamp put hooliganism by themselves. Ultimately the responsibility of dealing with criminals lies with the Police. Hooligans are criminals and as such should not be treated any differently than common street criminals.
Dr. Wario says he saw a fan uproot chairs at the stadium and that the act was caught on television. Why then can’t he ask the Police to find this particular fan and arrest him ? If a common thief was caught stealing on camera would’nt the police use that video footage to catch him ?
Nyamweya is also correct when he says the police are letting clubs down. It is common knowledge that police are complicit in accepting bribes in order to let fans scale the fence and get in free. In fact one was recently caught on video. In the video below, at the 35 second mark, a Policeman is seen accepting a bribe to allow some fans to scale the fence and gain free entry.
These fans who scale the fence are the same faux fans who then commit acts of hooliganism. As a person who has attended many a football match, I can attest to this. Sam Nyamweya is therefore correct when he says the Police are complicit in hooliganism. We urge the government to address police corruption as a way to address hooligamism
We need specifics from Wario
In his emotional outburst, Wario did not offer any solutions. He simply said clubs must deal with the issue. Rather than just give general ultimatums, we urge the minister to convene a committee to find out how clubs the federation and the government can join hands to deal with hooliganism.
Study what the British did
The British used to have a serious problem with hooliganism in the 1980s. In fact British hooligans were far worse than anything that pertains in Kenya. They finally succeeded in reducing it significantly. it out. Someone needs to study what the British did and see how it can be implemented here. The people at the sports ministry who are paid to run sports and whose only job is to run sports are the ones who have the bandwidth to perform such studies. Most club officials are essentially volunteers who have little bandwidth and time to conduct such studies.
Here are some of the measures that the British took. Note that all these are actions that can only be taken by the government
- Banning items that could be used as weapons or missiles in stadia, and searching suspected hooligans
- Banning identified hooligans from stadia, either formally via judicial orders, or informally by denying them admittance on the day
- Moving to all-seated stadia, which reduces the risk of disorderly crowd movement
- Segregating opposing fans, and fencing enclosures to keep fans away from each other and off the pitch
- Banning opposing fans from matches and/or ordering specific matches to be played behind closed doors
- Compiling registers of known hooligans
- Restricting the ability of known hooligans to travel overseas.
Do not condemn all Fans
People around Dr. Wario who know about football, should inform the minister that most fans who attend football games are peace loving and only interested in cheering their teams. Unfortunately Dr. Wario has condemned all football fans and painted all of them with a broad brush. Yet the sports minister ought to be in the business of promoting sports, encouraging fans to attend and encouraging corporations to be financially involved. His outburst at the KPL gala did the exact opposite.
Fans have done their part
Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards fans have done their part to try and stamp out hooliganism. Before every episode of the mashemeji derby, fans on both sides always come together and agree to be peaceful. And most of them are. In fact at the main stand, it is now not uncommon to see fans of both sides sitting together, something that was unthinkable even 10 years ago.
Club Chairmen on both sides have appealed directly to fans to desist from hooliganism.Of course they can do more. But only police can take decisive action.
In many Gor Mahia matches, the fans have taken it upon themselves to identify hooligans and hand them over to the Police. If Mr. Wario really followed football.
In many cases the players themselves have gone to the terraces to prevail upon fans to calm down. In one case even former coach Zdravko Logarusic himself went to the terraces to tell fans to calm down.
Yes we can have an anti hooligan police
Sports are not just fan and games. They are a source of employment for many people including footballers, coaches, managers, physios, journalists and so forth. A country like Kenya that has a youth unemployment rate of 60% should do everything to strengthen and build the sports sector in order to provide the youth more opportunities for employment.
In addition, as the Minister correctly pointed out, hooligans are destroying government property. It is thefore in the best interest of the government to deal decisively with hooligans in order to send a message.
So it is it not far fetched to say that a section of Kenya police should be specifically trained to deal with hooligans ? Dr. Wario says that it cannot be done because it is not done in France or Germany. The problem with that line of thinking is that neither Germany nor France has the same issues as Kenya has. And we have to follow everything that the Europeans do. We can be selective about what we copy from the Europeans and come up with our own initiatives.
There is precedent for this. For example back in the 1970s, Kenya created a special anti-stock theft police unit to deal with the menace of cattle rustling that at one point was completely out of control. I am certain that there is no anti-stock theft police unit in Germany and Kenya did not wait for Germany to create one before we created our own.
This author is not an apologist for Mr. Nyamweya. He deserves criticism for some of the things he has done. But this author is primarily interested in promoting Kenya football.
Punishing and condemning clubs who do not have the resources to deal with hooligans can only go so far. The government can and must take the lead in dealing with hooligans.
We therefore urge Dr. Wario to modify his stance and lead from the front in order to address the menace of hooliganism. The British did it with plenty of goverment support. So should Kenya.