YEN.com.gh contributor, Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane reflects on the the 15th anniversary of the May 9 Accra sports stadium disaster.
June 27, 2015 - That was the day I decided to finally make the independent decision to go to the Accra Sports Stadium to watch a match. I am a bit claustrophobic so meeting a lot of people at the entrance was a lot to handle but my brother's enthusiasm was encouraging. So I stayed till the end of the match which ended in a 2-2 draw.
Some fans of the former captain of the Black Stars, Stephen Appiah, were quite disappointed when they did not get the chance to interact with the veteran footballer and the other constellation. Personally, I was dying for a photograph with my all time favourite - Samuel Eto'o but he left even before the match ended.
My brother will, however not pass the chance for an experience of a lifetime, so he dragged me along onto the field after the match, in his spirited attempt to introduce himself to his hero, Stephen Appiah.
Surprising enough, we were able to manoeuvre our way towards the field with little problems, even in the face of the thickest security presence I have seen in my life. Frankly I felt the place was tad overprotected for the occasion, but thanks to the crafty manoeuvres of Kofi, we had gotten unto the field unnoticed.
The footballers had left the field so it was free for anyone to enter. I was taking pictures directly at the entrance of the dressing room when I was pushed by an overwhelming number of people. I thought it was a stampede but when I looked back, I found out that there was a security official who had taken out his belt to whip those who had made their way into the dressing room. When the fans complained, he shouted back at them and said: "I told you not to come near this place."
The journalist in me would have taken a video of the incident but unfortunately, my battery was too low for that. Immediately, I embarked on a search for my brother, after which we left the place before any bad thing could happen.
As I was going home, so many questions run through my mind. Was it right for the security official to assault the fan because he had warned him not to cross into the dressing room? If the crowd were larger than this, how would that particular security official handle the crowd? This occurrence reminded me of something.
I was only four years old when I watched the May 9 disaster on television. 2001 - that's about 15 years ago since the incident. It was a match between Hearts and Kotoko. These two teams were the biggest and most sought after rival teams. The Kotoko fans, after their 2-1 defeat threw plastic seats and bottles unto the pitch. The security at that point also decided to use tear gas to control the crowd which eventually resulted in compressive asphyxia and the death of about 127 people but this was not without a stampede.
There were several law suits against the security officials who were involved in the tear gas spree but none of which could console the families of the 127 people who were lost in the worst stadium disaster in Africa.
I was happy to hear after the recent Hearts and Kotoko match which resulted in a 1-0 win for Kotoko came to a successful and peaceful end even after the Hearts of Oak goalkeeper,Soulama Abdoulay, scored an own goal. Previously, this may have resulted in chaos but fortunately it did not. I was happy to see very colourful pictures of the match on social media ; "simply beautiful" , I thought. So what has changed? Is it that people are not as enthusiastic about these two teams any longer?
Definitely not! I still know a lot of die-hard supporters for either of these two teams. I think Ghanaians have grown into a more tolerable and peaceful people over the years. It seems to me that we have taken lessons from the May 9 disaster seriously.
2016 and the other years ahead promise to be packed with events not withstanding the impending elections (in Ghana).In as much as we are at liberty to show our unflinching support for a particular group, let us do so in a peaceful manner even if the outcome is not what we expect it to be. Our security agencies must also make it a point to learn how to effectively control crowd while minimising the number of casualties. Whenever we lay a wreath for anyone who died in the May 9 disaster, let's make it a point live in peace and show tolerance to each other despite our conflicting views.
Across the world, many similar terrible disasters have occurred.
The Heysel Stadium disaster dating as far back as the 29th of May, 1985 (which was during the Eurpean Cup final )where Juventus beat Liverpool by 1 goal. According to the statistics, 39 people died with 600 people (most being Juventus fans)sustaining injuries after the rioting.
Below are some other riot-sparked stadium disasters and the total number of casualties recorded:
Port Said Stadium disaster in 2012 -79 casualties.
In 2001, the Oppenheimer stadium disaster which took place in South Africa and claimed 42 lives. The match involved Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. Fans of the latter are believed to have been responsible for the riot because they felt cheated by the referee who upheld a goal by a player from the Chiefs.
A similar incident involving these same teams occurred at the Ellis Park Stadium,South Africa in 2001. The 43 deaths recorded were as a result of stampede and firing of tear gas by untrained security personnel. All these events were results of uncontrolled tempers and lack of tolerance for others.
Football is a beautiful game and in as much as we all have different club and national interests, we should not try to adulterate its beauty with our vindictive attitude when we do not get what we want. The game is supposed to bring us together and not tear us apart.
So let us learn to coexist with each other peacefully in which ever part of the world we find ourselves so that all these disasters would never happen again.
Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane is a level 200 Medical Student at the University of Ghana, Legon. She writes fictional stories based on medicine and her articles aim at educating as well as entertaining the public on certain issues that children with special needs face.