In a continuation of an article published two weeks ago, Sports Extra tries to unmask the hooligans, underlying causes and why getting to know this might help fight the vice at domestic football venues.
In Malawi, this season alone, three major cases of hooliganism and violence have been registered costing the lives of Geoffrey Mwale and David Mhoni (during a friendly game in Mzimba District) and massive loss of property.
The first case of violence flared on March 22 2015 at the Kamuzu Stadium during a Be Forward sponsorship launch game between Be Forward Wanderers and Silver Strikers.
Mid last month, a league game between Surestream (now Fisd Wizards) and Red Lions at the same venue led to, weeks later, the death of Mwale due to brain injuries after some soldiers assaulted him during the chaos.
In 2013, Wanderers fan Lemiyasi Josita also died in similar circumstances at Balaka Stadium.
Perpetrators of the Balaka violence have, according to Balaka Police, jumped bail. At least, for the Lions game, suspects Robert Bennet and John Dick are answering disorderly conduct charges at the Blantyre Magistrate’s Court.
United Kingdom’s Exeter University sociology professor Anthony King, according to the BBC online, cites two categories of hooligans: the elite; the committed hooligans who are usually ‘normal’ fans without pre-meditate despite engaging in the violence “but join in once it starts.”
The second case of hooligans, King said, get involved to “assert themselves over their rivals.” Most Malawi hooligans fall in this category.
King cites three factors which can lead to trouble such as political background to the game, search for excitement and result of a game. There are few cases pertaining to politics in Malawi’s case.
King argues the result of the game is not necessarily the trigger for violence, “although it can be a factor”.
However, in Malawi’s case, Surestream’s equaliser in the 2-2 draw against Lions, triggered the violence which the Lions players started right on the pitch by beating up referee Boniface Chapinga.
Another study in findings substantiating the claim that “hooliganism might be attributed to the search for excitement and pleasure…buzz of excitement…the hooligan experience.”
Solution to violence and hooliganism lies in increasing levels of policing and improvement in advance ticketing selling system and pre-emptive bans, King advises.
In the domestic context, on policing increase, Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) executive secretary George Jana observes that security should go beyond deploying more police officers and include closed circuit television (Cctv).
Such electronic devices are not in Malawi football stadium built decades ago when fans relatively behaved violently and stadium capacity has shrunk so much due to increased patronage thereby pilling pressure on such facilities.
Some government facilitated task forces, have over the years, suggested banning of sale of alcohol in and around the stadia, search of fans entering the pitch to fish out those with sharp objects and stones and the drunk, and ban of sale of cooked green maize cobs as solutions.
However, at the recent Cosafa Cup games in North West Province, South Africa, beer was being sold right in the terraces and fans could not dare misbehave due to well deployed stewards hired from security companies and also police monitoring through CCTV.
Such monitoring means that any slight ill behaviour is picked and perpetrators jailed and banned from games. Such tight security measures are what lack in local venues. The football authorities especially the stadia owners do not have the capacity.
This evidenced by the fact that in all these cases of violence, it is only a few fans who have been brought to book, hence would-be offenders are not scared to get involved again.
Despite all these suggestions, King makes a harsh observation that football is sinuous with violence, adding “it’s just about mitigating it when and if you can.”