THE recent hefty fines and deduction of points meted out to Dynamos and Highlanders as a result of fan-violence at football matches should go a long way in making football supporters think twice before resorting to hooliganism to force change of decisions on the football pitch.
With Dynamos trailing 0-1 to Highlanders, the Premier League game was recently abandoned due to crowd violence.
Dynamos supporters had invaded the pitch protesting a goal awarded to Highlanders. For failing to control their fans, Highlanders were fined US$5 000 and Dynamos US$7 500.
To rub salt to Dynamos’ wound, since their fans were the main actors, Bosso were awarded the match on a 3-0 scoreline.
Thus, Dembare supporters who had hoped to change the referee’s decision in their favour, found their team worse off.
Their team went on to lose a game they could have won or drawn if it had not been abandoned. Even before this game, supporters of the same giants of Zimbabwean football had been involved in more violent episodes at football matches.
Dynamos were fined US$4 000 for fan-trouble at Bulawayo Chiefs. On the other, Highlanders were fined US$6 000 when their supporters caused the abandonment of their match against FC Platinum. The game was later awarded to FC Platinum on a 3-0 scoreline.
But it looks like these fines being meted out several weeks after the offenses were committed are not having the desired effect.
Retribution for offending teams should be immediate. Taking months to give judgment kills the impact supposed to be associated with the offense, especially with supporters.
But not on the affected clubs. Recently, Highlanders were mourning about US$11 000 their club has been fined for fan-hooliganism in just two games.
True, teams are bound to feel the adverse effects of such fines considering the financial situation of Zimbabwean teams.
But what about the hooligans! We bet this has very little impact on them, if any, especially when the punishment is meted several weeks, if not months, after the offence.
That is why it is very necessary for clubs to educate their supporters on the consequences of mischief at football matches.
Football fans should know that, no matter how much they think they know about football rules, the referee’s decision is final. Stones and any other missiles, no matter how lethal, can only land their team in serious trouble.
Supporters are more likely to feel the pinch if they are barred from watching home games of their favourite teams.
May be in addition to a hefty fine, Dynamos and Highlanders might also have been ordered to play their next one or two games in empty stadia.
Since man’s greatest fear is death, perhaps, supporters have to be reminded of some tragedies that have followed disorder at match venues.
Zimbabweans still shudder at the memory of 12 soccer fans who perished at the National Sports Stadium in a World Cup qualifying match between Zimbabwe and South Africa in July 2000.
In Peru, in 1964, over 300 people died after violence followed a Peru last minute disallowed ‘goal’ in a match between the home country and Argentina.
Accra, Ghana, witnessed the deadliest sporting disaster in Africa so far when 127 people were counted dead at the end of violence in a soccer match between rival giants Accra Hearts and Asante Kotoko. Hearts and Kotoko are Ghanaian giants just as our own Highlanders and Dynamos.
Hillsborough in England is the home of the deadliest football match mishap in European history. Disorganisation at turnstiles at a cup game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest led to the death of 96 fans in April 1989.
There are many more disturbing accounts of unnecessary tragedies at football matches.
These grim statistics of body counts at football matches should never remain a secret.Supporters must be constantly reminded of them by their club officials. Remember heavy fines and the barring of fans at home matches are measures meant to deter recurrence of bad behaviour and yet death is final.
But is it worth it?