It is no longer safe out there. Thank God if you go to a football match and come out of the stadium unscathed. Violence is now the norm.
Football hooliganism, sponsored by club officials, has taken over the beautiful game and all we can do is watch as the situation gets out of hand with each passing game.
Hooligans are masquerading as officials. Thugs are hired to wreck havoc at match venues.
Otherwise, how would one explain a situation in which Be Forward Wanderers officials left the technical area, jumped the perimeter fence and ignited a free-for-all brawl with Prison United supporters during a Carlsberg Cup quarter-final at Balaka Stadium?
Punishments seem not to deter such acts of hooliganism. One would think Wanderers had learnt a lesson from the Balaka Stadium incident after Football Association of Malawi (FAM) fined them.
Barely 24 hours after the Balaka ugly scenes, the Nomads were at it again in their Super League match against Mzuzu University (Mzuni) FC at Kamuzu Stadium.
So barbaric were the Nomads’ supporters to the extent that Mzuni team manager Maloto Chaula was roughed up before urine was poured on him in the name of cleansing juju.
Chaula was so traumatised that he watched the remaining part of the game on television at a relative’s home.
Mzuni general secretary Khumbo Kumwenda described the attack on Maloto as just one of the several incidents they have to endure.
“I don’t know what the problem is with these so-called big teams. Their conduct is abominable. Football authorities have to take action to curb this malpractice,” he said.
Belief in superstitions is what is fuelling such acts of barbarism.
In the Balaka incident, Prison player Lumbani Hamis explains how the Nomads supporters pounced on him, accusing him of keeping the team’s charms.
“They beat me up and searched my pockets, but they found nothing. It was a traumatic experience for me,” he said.
The latest incident involving Wanderers supporters saw them attack Mangochi Police goalkeeper George Chauya, who had to be rushed to the hospital after a mob attacked him at Kamuzu Stadium during a Carlsberg Cup semi-final match.
Mangochi team manager Andrew N’dalira said the incident was a clear indication that authorities were failing to deal with violence.
“Maybe because some of us are regarded as small teams, we are voiceless. But it’s a shame. A team should win fairy, not by using dirty tactics,” he said.
But what is fuelling such acts of violence when punishments are being meted out to perpetrators?
FAM and Super League of Malawi (Sulom) have now come under criticism for applying the rules selectively.
A week ago FAM fined Mafco K1.250 million, suspended their three players Paul Ndlovu, Stan Malata and Richard Mbulu and team manager David Gulaimfa for the fracas that led to the calling off of the Carlsberg Cup semi-final.
Wanderers, on the other hand, escaped with just a K300 000 fine for the Balaka Stadium incident despite an earlier warning.
No action was taken against Nyasa Big Bullets who also subjected Mafco to the same treatment when the two sides met in the Presidential Cup semi-final at Kamuzu Stadium.
Gulaimfa called for fairness and justice when applying the rules and regulations.
“When it is a small team involved, there is haste in taking action. The punishment is also very harsh. Sometimes the small teams are not even given a chance to be heard,” he said.
“But if it is a big team like Wanderers or Bullets no action is taken. If it is taken, it is with leniency.”
But FAM competitions manager Gomezgani Zakazaka said rules and regulations apply without fear or favour.
Zakazaka said this is evident in situations when FAM has acted promptly once they get a report from match officials.
“We no longer wait to call for a disciplinary hearing. The official reports are enough for action to be taken.”
Yet the violence at matches is escalating, putting hard won sponsors’ trust and confidence at risk.