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Football violence not acceptable

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Zimbabwe’s 1-0 loss to Guinea in a 2014 World Cup qualifier on Sunday is but one of the three results one should expect from a football contest.

A team can win, draw or lose and naturally the most acceptable of the three is winning. A draw would be tolerated, but a loss is not acceptable, but when it comes, we have to learn to accept and live with it.
The kind of violent scenes we saw at the National Sports Stadium and the derogatory songs against the technical department, in particular head coach Rahman Gumbo, left a sour note when we all thought football should be an agent of unity.

We are all very much aware of the disaster at the same venue that claimed the lives of 13 people after South Africa had scored its second goal against the Warriors in a World Cup qualifier on July 9, 2000.

During the match, a section of fans, among the 35 000 crowd, began throwing missiles after South Africa scored their second goal to make it 2-0 with eight minutes remaining.

Police fired teargas into the crowd and the game was halted as smoke filled the stadium.
The referee abandoned the match and the two teams rushed off the field as the teargas wafted over the ground.

Sunday’s match was over when the missile-throwing began. There is no doubt fans sometimes get angry when results do not go their way, but a culture of acceptance is what must be cultivated.
One has to pay tribute to the police who, unlike in 2000, just fired teargas into the crowd without really considering the situation on the stands carefully.

This time, they chose to stand back and studied the situation to the last detail before they could deal with the last few fans who were on the stands.
It is important for football fans to learn that riotous behaviour does not only lead to loss of innocent life, but can also take the lives of those who would have sparked it.

In February, 73 people died in Egypt during a league match between Al-Ahly and Al Masry in Port Said.

Zimbabwe will play Egypt in one of their World Cup qualifiers next year in Egypt and probably in an empty stadium because of the fear of rioting fans.

Just last Friday night, Egypt played Mozambique in an empty stadium in Alexandria in a World Cup qualifier. Zimbabwe risks the same treatment even when it is very clear the country cannot afford to play in an empty stadium.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter, speaking after the Egypt disaster, clearly defined the role of football: “This is a black day for football and we must take steps to ensure that such a catastrophe never happens again. Football is a force for good and we must not allow it to be abused by those who mean evil.”

Life is sacred and we must do everything in our power to preserve it when we can avoid disasters. Football must remain a family game and people should feel free to attend the games.

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