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Ethiopia: Is it possible to tackle football violence?

Ethiopia: Is it possible to tackle football violence?

The violent act doesn’t serve any purpose except injuring some people and damaging property.

Many people were hurt when violence erupted during the match between defending champions St. George and the visiting side Adama City a couple of weeks ago at the Addis Ababa Stadium.

Well, violence during football matches is not new at the stadium but this time it is frequent. The steady increase in the rate of violent confrontation among the football fans is indeed alarming. In matches that take place in state stadiums the incident is even worse.

The game of football may be associated with violence in many parts of the world. Elsewhere the national federations make studies how to reduce violence in football but in our case we don’t see anything in that direction. What we now know commonly is to read reports on crowd behaviour as much as on the game itself.

Condemnatory reports are heard every time but they produce nothing. Sometimes we found it difficult to find the true cause of the violence. For instance the cause of the violent confrontation between St. George and Adama City fans was difficult to explain. The margin of points was wide. It was a very cool football play but all of a sudden fist fighting and chair throwing began. By law this act is punishable. The camera took all the action. Some were seen throwing chairs wearing the shirts of the team they support. What does that mean? The team that they support will surely get penalty as a result.

In the international arena violence erupts either due to the emergence of overt racism at football matches or the alleged influence of alcohol consumption. Black players were often greeted with monkey-noises and bananas. It seems now this trend has declined in Europe. The recent decline may be explained due to campaigns designed to combat racism. Other measures like severe penalty imposed on the teams helped reduce the rate of violence.

History has documented that in the medieval times football matches involved hundreds of players, and were essentially pitched battles between the young men of rival villages and towns – often used as opportunities to settle old feuds, personal arguments and land disputes.

To avoid this kind of violence and bring in much more disciplined games laws were introduced with strict supervision of national federations beginning mid 20th centuries.

This violent behaviour at the stadium is known as ‘football hooliganism’ at this time. It was originated in England in the early 1960s, and has been linked with the televising of matches (and of pitch-invasions, riots etc.) In other European countries, similar patterns of behaviour emerged almost same time.

In our case there has been no systematic recording of football-related violent incidents. The lack of quantitative or reliable empirical data on football-related violence, and particularly the lack of comparable data, makes assessment of the variations and similarities very difficult.

It is clear that some form of disorderly behaviour occurred like it was last Sunday.

There are, of course, significant similarities in the ‘stages of development’ of the problem. We know that at one time it was common to witness sporadic violence directed mainly at referees and players, followed by involving violence between opposing groups of fans inside the stadium, and then an increasing involvement in violent encounters between these groups outside the stadium. What we persistently observe is the eruption of sporadic and sudden violence actions.

Football hooliganism is clearly not an exclusively ‘the disease’ of one or two clubs. Nor can the hooligans of one or two clubs be held entirely responsible for spreading the disease in different parts of the region. The disease is everywhere.

To put these kinds of violence in control the federation must take action in accordance to the rules and regulations. Media can contribute to the expansion of hooliganism through sensationalism. Good to avoid making reports sensational.

In Britain and elsewhere in Europe racist chanting at matches is one cause for violence but in our case this happens very rarely. Good to take action if this kind of problem emerges. There are people who associate violence resulting from excessive alcohol consumption. This view may have some elements of truth. It is also good to prohibit sales of alcohol prior to the game. At the very least, restrict the availability of alcohol at certain times around the stadiums.

Use as it is done in Europe and elsewhere in the world sophisticated policing, surveillance and monitoring techniques, segregation of fans. It is also good to introduce specific legislation to cover acts of ‘hooliganism’. The wrong doers must be legally responsible for what they committed at the stadium.

Is it possible to tackle football hooliganism? Yes and No. Yes if we are in a position to take actions, impose penalties not only on the clubs but on those who involve in violating the disciplinary rules. No, if we fail to act on time. From what was seen in the aftermath of the St. George-Adama City violence the federation is way behind in taking action to tackle this serious problem.

The call: create a forum to contact concerned officials, club officials, federation officials with the fan groups. Take the initiatives to push security officers to intervene in the process of finding a solution.



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