VIOLENCE is the last thing Zimbabwean football requires now and the ugly scenes which characterised the match between two of the country’s soccer giants Highlanders and Dynamos at Barbourfields (BF) Stadium in Bulawayo on Sunday must be condemned in the strongest terms.
Zimbabwe is undoubtedly a soccer-loving nation but our passion for the so-called beautiful game should never overflow to the point of us bashing each other to simply register our undying love for our favourite teams for whatever reason.
In the Sunday match between perennial rivals Highlanders and Dynamos it was evident from the onset that the duel would be a heated contest both on the pitch and terraces where fans would obviously be rooting for their team players.
All hell broke loose when Highlanders fans assumed the role of an umpire and contested the match official’s decisions. We also understand there were some Dynamos fans who were taunting Highlanders fans over some of the decisions made by the match official.
And to register their displeasure, the Highlanders fans twice invaded the pitch which eventually led to the match being abandoned when the situation degenerated into violence.
It then emerged that the flaring tempers were apparently fanned by political overtones stemming from last month’s disputed harmonised elections.
Whatever galvanised the violence, this behaviour should not be condoned at football matches for the simple reason that soccer is entertainment and when entertainment ends up stirring hate and violence, it then ceases to serve its purpose.
Past consequences of fans causing violence at football matches have seen teams being forced to play in empty stadiums, which we believe is the worst thing our game requires at the moment.
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Soccer fans in Zimbabwe need to be more mature by copying the behaviour of other nations where the game is even bigger and hotly followed.
Of course, violence at football matches is a global problem, but Zimbabwe must steer away from this barbaric conduct for the good of the game.
However, we also appeal to the Premier Soccer League (PSL) to appoint level-headed match officials for emotionally-charged matches where tempers can potentially overflow into violence.
This then calls for the urgent employment of the video assistant referee (VAR) in our PSL games to intervene when there are serious contestations as those we understand triggered the Sunday violence at BF.
The VAR system is the best way to solve volatile contestations, and it is high time our football administration acquires these gadgets to be used during all our local matches because relying on fourth officials is archaic to a point that it is now very dangerous.
If the PSL is worth its salt and is serious about developing the game to international standards, it should quickly source for these gadgets to help avoid such unfortunate incidents as the Sunday violence.
The onus also rests on the Zimbabwe Football Association to work double time to make sure that the VAR system is utilised during all local matches by virtue of the PSL being an affiliate of the local soccer mother body. We sincerely hope the VAR issue will be top priority, going forward.