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Egypt`s soccer chaos provides vital lessons

4th February 2012
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Editorial cartoon

This week goes down as one of the worst in the history of world and Egyptian sports, soccer in particular.

Soccer stadium riots in Egypt’s Mediterranean city of Port Said on Wednesday, chiefly blamed on hooliganism and problems with crowd control measures, left over 74 people dead and over 1,000 injured.

There has been no such serious incident in Tanzania, so not only should we count ourselves fortunate but we must take a cue from the Egyptian disaster and take appropriate precautions.

Incidents of this nature often occur without warning, and sports authorities such as the Tanzania Football Federation ought to have this in mind.

The relevant authorities must not wait until matters run beyond control, but must make deliberate efforts to tighten security at and around stadiums before, during and after matches.

While this is not to suggest that we are incompetent to prevent or contain violence at stadiums or big sports gatherings, we must stand warned of the need to maintain and possibly intensify security.

The football federation, stadium owners, security firms and police should make regular reviews of the security system in use, with a view to devising more effective ones.

Disasters such as the one in Port Said can be controlled with relative ease if the police and other security personnel are better informed on the situation on the ground and execute their duties to satisfaction.

Tanzanian soccer has witnessed its own sporadic incidents of hooliganism and other forms of unbecoming practice that have left people injured at stadiums, Morogoro’s Jamhuri Stadium being a case in point.

We need to boost the level of security at our stadiums to enable more fans to buy tickets and increase gate collections, thanks to rises in the number of spectators, without having to fear for their safety.

Stadiums should remain what they are meant to be, that is, places where sports events take place as fans look on much in the same way as they would do before television screens.

Tight security and regular checks are a must at stadium gates if we are to identify and weed out rowdy fans and other people intent on causing chaos.

The security and safety measures should be consistent, however big or small the event and however prominent or inconsequential the venue.

We will be setting a terrible precedent should we fail to maintain peace and tranquility in and out of our stadiums as that would surely be a recipe for disaster.

But the consequences of laxity in ensuring security could be much more costly, including making our country risk being blacklisted internationally.

That would be a terrible dent on our record as a sporting nation and would deliver a damaging blow to any hopes we may have of hosting the likes of the African Cup of Nations, the All Africa Games or the FIFA World Cup.

We must therefore fight hard to ensure security in sports partly owing to the importance continental and world sports bodies attach to it as yardstick with which to gauge individual countries’ capacity to host big-time events but also because sports is about peace and enjoyment.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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