By Isaac Asare, a Journalist
Today in sporting history reminds Ghanaians and sports enthusiasts of the sudden but horrific disaster that occurred on Wednesday May 9, 2001. Nicknamed “The Black Wednesday” one could recall those awful moments in football history. The unfortunate event which had left an indelible memory in the minds of Ghanaians is recorded as the worst football tragedy ever recorded in Africa. Over hundred and 20 people, mainly football spectators, lost their lives to a stampede at the Accra Sports stadium. Although some managed to escape the tragedy, hundreds sustained varied degrees of injuries all in an attempt to run from tear gas canisters thrown by the police to control angry spectators.
Quite disturbing was the fact that a quota of the country’s productive youth that constitute the nation’s workforce had their future ruined by the disaster. It also claimed the lives of football lovers including children and the aged. The sad event to many soccer pundits exposes the vulnerability of our football administration in terms of public safety among other security lapses which has to do with crowd control and management at our stadiums.
In the Aftermath of that development, the country’s Football Administration has not only swallowed the bitter pill of the horrific incident but drawn valuable lessons from it. The Ghana Football association has to this effect instituted measures including stadium safety and effective crowd control to forestall any future occurrence. May 9 is commemorated each year to pay respect to the lives that were lost. 21 years on, what has become of Ghana’s football? Opinions on this issue may differ looking at our current sporting dispensation in terms of association football but the realities on the ground speaks volume of what is to come should we continue to toll the line of uncertainties. It does not demand rocket science to predict the future of Ghana football. Although some significant progress has been made over the years, there seems to be more room for improvement. We cannot continue to lose our cherished soccer enthusiasts to stampede.
One looming disaster that ought to be tackled with all the urgency it deserves is the acts of hooliganism at our stadiums. Most spectators these days have developed the penchant for launching verbal and violent attacks on players, match officials and referees. The past years have witnessed such bad incidents with impunity. Poor officiating on the other hand has become a common reason for such attacks. We have come a long way to tolerate such acts of indiscipline because football has come of age. The onus according to some football pundits lies on the leadership of our football fraternity since little has been done to impose stiffer sanctions on offenders.
In as much as we vehemently condemn the violent acts of some Nigerians following their defeat in the World Cup qualifiers in Abuja. This should send the signal to management of the FA to go wild on fans who are always bent on causing trouble during and after matches. Aside from the indiscipline in the football arena, others have lamented about the architectural designs of our stadiums which need to be improved. One of Ghana’s leading football commentators, Benjamin Willie Graham subscribes to this assertion and feels the stadiums need to be re-modified to suit international standards. Such interventions could go a long way to curb such avoidable deaths. We can do better as a country and hope that people will come to terms with the new changes in football and do the needful to help complement the effort of the government and the FA.
To those that lost their loved ones during the May 9 disaster, our hearts are still with you. Let us all in one accord push Ghana football forward and forge a common ground to aspire to lead the continent.