I do not subscribe to the notion that Kenyan football suffers a hooliganism problem. Far from it. When you bring together random people in large numbers, rotten apples will find themselves in the mix and no one has control over that.
When I was growing up in the village, I was a frequent Disco Matanga goer. There were young men who came to dance and keep fit. The whole night all they did was keep their limbs busy interacting with the beat; until oxygen debt, or sleep deprivation, forced them to stagger back home to catch a wink. For the most part, they were the happier, fitter lot.
Then there were those who went to Disco Matanga to cause grief. This lot were few but extremely vocal. When a track they disliked came up on the cassette, they paraded their ten-cent coins demanding it be taken off the playlist. After their demands were met, they asked it be rewound until it’s the only thing we all came for, that night. Most of them were young boys with energy to burn. For a long time, old men grew frustrated of Disco Matangas that had uncontrollable youth. They coiled their tails and let evil reign.
But who is a Hooligan?
The Free Online Dictionary defines a ‘Hooligan’ as; “… a violent trouble-maker typical of a gang…”
That definition does not fit the ‘hooligans’ we are told are blotting our game’s impressive copybook. The definition, up there, fits the head of a Mungiki underground cell – the faceless ruffian who commands an organised crime syndicate from deep inside his King’ong’o Maximum Prison hideout. No Gor Mahia ‘hooligan’ can match up to that definition, however stealthy they operate. A thug of that matchup has no time to go to the stadium waiting for a referee blunder to blow the place up. Those guys twist people’s throats by the minute. They don’t act nice coming through the stadium gates and metamorphose into a deadly dragon once inside. A hooligan of that description is the State’s worst nightmare.
The Kenyan football hooligan is a victim of circumstances. For the most part, he is that football fanatic who left their houses to offer passionate support to the club their dearly love. I have attended KPL matches most times, and I can assure you the people branded hooligans are the ones who love their club the most, and publicly so. They feel personally affected when a referee conspires to hand their team defeat, or when a football administrator is doing a bad job at their club of heart. A hooligan, as defined by KPL laws, is not someone who is a serial trouble-maker. If you check police records of hard knock criminals on Kenya Police constant radar, few, if any, of the thugs will be Gor Mahia or AFC Leopards ‘hooligans’.
I, therefore, feel that the arrow of blame is being directed at the wrong target.
Most of you are conversant with the Hillsborough 96. The Hillsborough disaster, Wikipedia will tell you, ‘was a human crush that caused the deaths of 96 people and injured 766 others at a football match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, England, on 15 April 1989. The match was the 1988–89 FA Cup semi-final, with Hillsborough, home ground of Sheffield Wednesday, selected as a neutral venue.’
I was watching the jury verdict last week on this matter that has refused to go away from English football. After a 26-year fight for justice by the victims families, South Yorkshire Police Officer in-charge, Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, the senior police officer responsible for policing the match, admitted that his serious failings caused the deaths and injuries of the fans, that day. At the time, even when fans were dying in terraces Duckenfield lied to the media saying that Liverpool supporters had gained unauthorised entry via an exit gate. The truth is that he, himself, had ordered it to be opened.
You should watch the scenes inside that stadium on that fateful day. I have never seen a sea of humanity attending a football match like that one. These fans were passionate about the beautiful game. Left the comfort of their homes to offer vociferous support to the teams they loved, only to die because law enforcement authorities slept on their job, and chose to put them blame where it wrongfully belonged.
The media, in Kenya, are a like a bunch of sheep. They have followed this narrative for far too long that it is the hooligan who is ruining the image of our beautiful game. It pays to join the wagon of those trampling on the oppressed football fan. No journalist has ever bothered to follow up on the identities of these pilloried fans to bring to us the truth behind their truth.
When you hear KPL managers speak against hooligans you’d think KPL matches are always packed to the rafters. Look for any photo of a KPL match this season, and try count the number of fans inside that stadium. You’d be hard-pressed to fill your one hand. Even the Leopards v Gor derby no longer fills one-tenth of Nyayo Stadium; and it is not because for fear of hooligans.
Our clubs are run by hard-nosed brokers who see football as a money-minting machine. As I speak to you, no KPL club has an official merchandise store stocking replica jerseys. All these club chairmen know is to stick their mouths on the Supersport/SportPesa sponsorship tap sucking all the juices by themselves.
No fan would want to support a broken system. And no fan will be told how to express their displeasure at the manner in which our game is being shafted.
Via Facebook: By Gabriel Oguda