HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsPSL should deal with hooliganism once and for all

PSL should deal with hooliganism once and for all

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SUNDAY’S big Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) match between Highlanders and Dynamos was supposed to be another advertisement of the quality of local football and an exhibit of the huge interest the game draws, but it ended up being another embarrassing and sad episode.

Comment: NewsDay Editor

Highlanders officials and marshals try in vain to control the angry home fans
Highlanders officials and marshals try in vain to control the angry home fans

The match was abandoned with 40 minutes played following crowd trouble triggered by a contentious refereeing decision.

The violence, perpetrated by a handful of malcontents, put a blemish on the local game and also denied the football public of their Sunday entertainment.

And to think before the unfortunate disturbances started to unravel, this had been a match full of entertainment as the two biggest crowd pullers in the country traded blows in front of a full house.

That was until the unrepentant hooligans chose the grand occasion to throw reason to the wind and take centre stage with their lunacy.

There have been arguments since Sunday and, unfortunately, the debate has centred on whether Dynamos’ Cameroonian striker Christian Ntouba was offside when he scored the contentious equalising goal for DeMbare about five minutes before the break.

However, whether or not Ntouba was offside is not the issue. The bigger picture is what followed after the goal was given.

Match officials are human and, therefore, they make mistakes. Stoning them when aggrieved by their decision is crossing the line. Football has proper structures through which grievances against such issues are to be channelled.

On a bigger stage, match officials make mistakes and debatable decisions, but violence is never the solution. Missile-throwing is a problem that the PSL has failed to stamp out.

Highlanders yesterday released a statement condemning and disassociating themselves from the missile-throwing fans who caused the abandonment of the game. While commendable, that alone is not enough.

Police standing there watching and protecting referees and players is also not enough. The Sports and Recreation Commission also condemned the violence, but that alone too is not enough. We have heard all the condemnation for a long time yet still we come back to the same point.

Only last year, Highlanders were involved in a similar case, where their fans pelted match officials with missiles during the game against Chicken Inn over what they perceived as poor decision.

They were arraigned before a disciplinary committee and defended themselves saying that it was the match official who had caused the mayhem with poor decisions.

It was one of the lamest defences and they were found guilty and fined $3 500 as well as being ordered to play one match in an empty stadium.

They appealed and that is how the case died. Everybody went about their business until the end of the season.

Dynamos were also ordered to play one match in an empty stadium after clashes with police following a defeat to FC Platinum in the first half of the season last year. They, too, appealed and the case also died.

Barely a year later, here we are again, having to deal with violence at stadiums. Had the Highlanders fans been locked out of one match last season, it is unlikely that we would be dealing with violence today.

Dynamos were also let off. It is time that the authorities draw the line on violence and send out a strong message.
We know that clubs are struggling and the PSL needs the money from gate-takings, but locking fans out as punishment hurts both the clubs and their supporters.

It is probably the only way to restore sanity and peace at football stadiums. The police also need to weed out unruly individuals and lock them away.

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