The fateful event of 29 July, when two fans died and some were injured, will forever be etched into the minds of football fanatics.
It was a day when thousands of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates supporters converged at the annual football pilgrimage – the Carling Black Label Cup – to witness the country’s biggest soccer rivalry, which has existed for more than four decades.
Fans Prince Chauke (30) and Johannes Nkosi (33) died and scores were injured when about 200 people forced their way into the packed FNB Stadium.
Even though investigations are still continuing to establish the cause of this unfortunate incident, one cannot shy away from the fact that security breaches at football matches have increased at an alarming rate.
What is particularly disconcerting is that we seem to play catch-up once tragedy strikes. For instance, in May 2015, Chiefs supporter Ntandazo Mbenje (29) was killed by a police bullet when hundreds of supporters invaded the Nelson Mandela Stadium pitch in Port Elizabeth to celebrate Amakhosi’s league triumph over Chippa United.
The situation, as evidenced on countless occasions, was compounded by unscrupulous officials and stadium marshals. We must not forget that fake tickets were intercepted by the police prior to the game and on match day, some allegedly with Computicket marks, suggesting internal corruption.
The roots of ticket corruption runs deep. Numerous arrests have been made since April 2013. The 2015 Telkom Knockout final between Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium was also targeted. A 41-year-old suspect was nabbed after he was found with 18 fraudulent tickets ahead of the league premiership match between Pirates and Free State Stars at Orlando Stadium.
The late arrival of fans at the stadiums is also aggravating an already dire situation, something which the now-retired Judge Bernard Ngoepe highlighted in his 130-page report on the April 2001 Ellis Park disaster in which 43 fans died.
It is also disappointing to note that the behaviour of some fans puts others at risk. I have lost count of the number of matches which had to be delayed due to spectators’ late arrival.
- What is of cardinal importance is that football fans should play their part in ensuring their own safety and security to avert these sad events. Allowing ticketless fans within the stadium precinct is a recipe for disaster. The tight security measures which were applied during the 2010 FIFA World Cup ought to be resuscitated, especially during crowd-pulling encounters. Teboho Letshaba is an SABC journa-list and writes in his personal capacity.