The Wicked Disaster That Struck Ghana On May 9th

By Napoleon Ato Kittoe

It was strange to have borne such unworthy marks. In 2001, Ghana went down the road of infamy doing the wrong things to trigger the stadium disaster. In this, some 126 sports fans were killed in a stampede. The magnitude of the tragedy was unprecedented in the annals of football at the time.

The world was shocked to learn about this oddity, more so coming from Ghana, the West African nation not known for such incidents. There are places where wars, train accidents, fire outbreaks and the like have caused the extermination of people, but Ghana was not known in that vein until the inauspicious moment reared its ugly head.

The cause was the poor discretionary use of teargas by police in a stadium where exit points were not only small in size but few. The throwing of such a device into the fans was only going to fuel, and not douse the stadium pandemonium.

A fiery Accra Hearts of Oak side had gone ahead with the second goal in a titanic duel with Kumasi Asante Kotoko. Kotoko had equalized a Hearts solitary goal lead, and as their fans were celebrating the comeback, Hearts advertising a plucky performance on the night pulled another trigger from the lethal boot of Ishmael Addo. Then, a side of the watching crowd went berserk. They started removing plastic chairs and threw objects on the pitch forcing proceedings to an abrupt end.

At the last count, Ghana had recorded 126 deaths, automatically jumping to the news headlines worldwide. The victims are immortalized by a statue placed in the precincts of the location of the incident. The sight exudes emotional pain, and distraught the mind. However, it serves as a wake-up call activating the scruples in all duty-bearers.

Sports arenas attract various role players, and their active involvement in games ought to be viewed as seriously as we take the actual sportsmen and women. Things may take a different turn should the triggering factors induce spontaneous reactions in any of the events. Expect sharp twists and turns at the press of the wrong button since the fans, ruled by passion, act like zealots of any kind.

Whilst people the world over agonize this tragedy, it is unfortunate to notice a new trend which is the absence of the hot rivalry between Hearts and Kotoko, leaving the stadium sparse in their games the last ten years. A bend point that had brought everything to smithereens and dispersed the fans. The new conditions are as worse as the incident 23 years ago. The soccer frenzy, excitement, tensions, and all, up in smoke from the situational chimney we would probably wish to dissect another time.

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