Tag: african football

The Ugliest Day of Ghana’s Beautiful Game: 15th Anniversary of the Accra Sports Stadium Disaster

5354030820799_5043073398733There are very few things which unite the Ghanaian people like football. There is a visceral, all-encompassing passion when it comes to the beautiful game – not only in Ghana, but worldwide. However, with such a game which has played host to numerous moments of unspeakable joy and celebration, there have also been moments which have encroached upon the very darkest parts of the human condition. Racism. Abuse. And most of all, death. Death found its way to Hillsborough and Heysel in the late 80s. And on the 9th of May 2001, death found its way to the 40000 all-seater Accra Sports Stadium (aka Ohene Djan Stadium). This week marks the 15th anniversary of the Accra Sports Stadium disaster on ‘Black Wednesday‘ which claimed the lives of 127 supporters.

Speak to any football fan and they will tell you that there are certain matches which peak interest unlike most of the others. Liverpool v United. Real Madrid v Barca. In Ghana, when the Accra Hearts of Oak go toe-to-toe with the Asante Kotoko, it’s a very big deal.

In such matches tensions are high as the tribalism and passion of the fans thunders through the atmosphere. You can feel it. You can taste it. And that fateful day in May was the same. Every tackle met with cheers of derision and accomplishment in equal measure. Until one refereeing decision proved to be one bone of discontentment too much for some. Hearts of Oak had scored two late goals to race into a 2-1 lead. This led to fans registering their displeasure by launching missiles onto the pitch – chairs, water bottles, etc.

The police decided to fight fire with fire and in an attempt to disperse the crowd, indiscriminately Accra-Sports-stadium-stampedefiring tear gas, rubber bullets and flashbangs into the throngs of people. A recipe for disaster. People in pain and distress now found themselves in a warzone, and everyone made a frantic bid for the exits. Fans couldn’t encroach onto the pitch because of the 2-meter high wire fences which were adorned with barbed wire – similar fences which had been outlawed in Europe post-Hillsborough.

So the fans made mad dashes down the six narrow stairways which led to the exits. The bottleneck effect was brutal, fans crushing against each other in panic. Amidst the mayhem and the bedlam, fans trampled over each other, everyone desperate to save their life. In turn, 127 individuals lost theirs. And countless others sustained injuries of various severities.

Locked gates. Narrow exits. It took too long to relieve the crush. Chests prevented from expanding. Those who had fallen did not have space to get back up. People had been trampled upon, piled up against each other. When all was said-and-done, the battle list read painfully. 117 died from traumatic asphyxia – having their chests crushed inward resulting in suffocation. 10 more died from stampede trauma. 148 children of the deceased are being catered for by a Stadium Disaster Fund.

Black Wednesday was a logistical catastrophe of errors on an unbelievable scale. Aggressive police were too hack-handed in their attempts at crowd control. There were inadequate numbers of safety staff, inadequate access for emergency services. The stadium originally built in the 1960s was not fit-for-purpose for the new millennium – a poorly-maintained concrete dinosaur which simply could not cope with the worst that sport can have to offer. 37 Military Hospital was unable to house all of the dead – and so instead of the 106 surplus bodies being shifted to other mortuaries, they were kept on the compound in inappropriate temperatures; already in a state of decomposition by the time collections began for burials.

sffasfafafThe Accra Sports Stadium disaster on Black Wednesday still stands as the deadliest stadium disaster in all African history. It’s very ironic that the 15th anniversary comes just a couple of weeks after the new Hillsborough inquiry ended – just 8 less people died on Black Wednesday than Hillsborough and Heysel combined. Yes, an official Ghanaian commission blamed police on duty for inciting the stampede through criminal negligence. But unlike Hillsborough, there is no ongoing inquest, no active fight for justice. Even today, 15 years on, and despite renovation in 2007, the Accra Sports Stadium still falls short in terms of structural safety. Most of the recommendations from the government-appointed commission’s report following the disaster have been ignored.

But for a country which remains so football-mad, we need to do more to safeguard future sporting fans. The Ghanaian government needs to learn lessons from the West, which has made great strides in learning from their past disasters to ensure there is no room for repeat. The 127 need to be remembered – a safer, more fit-for-purpose sporting environment would be a fitting legacy. For nobody should leave home to go to a football match, cheering on their favourite team, and never come back home.

“As I made my way towards the staircase, I froze,” reported Accra sports journalist Yawme Ampofo-Ankrah in the aftermath of Black Wednesday. “I saw something I will never forget for the rest of my life…the most appaling look of fear and hopelessness was written across the faces of dying innocent young men. They were dying and ther was nothing anybody could do to save them.” We have the means, the will, and the lessons in our nation’s chapter to learn from the disaster and ensure that there is hope for the future. That there will not be another one of Ghana’s sons or daughters in such a predicament ever again. We can save them now. For as the inscription on the memorial bronze statue outside the stadium reads, ‘[We are our] brother’s keeper’.

By Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Ghana Football Team: Nigeria KO!

Ghana V Nigeria: Ghana Qualify for CAN 2012 (unbeaten) whilst Nigeria are knocked out!

Ghana and Nigeria warmed up for their match this Tuesday with contrasting fortunes in their final African nations cup 2012 qualifier games.

Ghana beat Sudan 2-0 (with goals from Asamoah Gyan & Jonathan Mensah) in Khartoum to book their place at the ACN finals next year. The Black Stars went through the group unbeaten, winning five and drawing one. After six rounds, Ghana finished with 16 points in the group, three more than their closest challenges Sudan.

ghana vs sudanMeanwhile Nigeria crashed out of the competition after a 2-2 draw with Guinea in Abuja, which means Nigeria have failed to qualify for the first time since 1986. After the match Super Eagles coach Samson Siasia apologised but this did not seem to appease the Nigerian fans, who reacted with great anger after the final whistle.

According to the BBC they tried to attack the media tribune at the Abuja stadium. Doors were shattered and glass broken. The fans also wanted to gain access to the players and officials. Was this really necessary? Though we should know how serious Nigerians take their football as it wasn’t too long ago the President had banned the team from playing! (ban was subsequently lifted).

However as a football fan I have to say I am quite disappointed Nigeria did not qualify. They’re fans would have added a lot of colour and passion to the competition and it’s always good when Ghana and Nigeria are in the same competition and is all the more sweeter when we beat them in CAN as we did in 2008 and 2010.

With African powerhouses Egypt & Cameroon also failing to qualify, Ghana will be in a very good position to win their first cup of nations since 1982.

Looking ahead to Tuesday’s game it will be interesting to see what will be the morale be like in the Super Eagles camp. After such a disappointing result, a loss to rivals Ghana even in a “friendly” will complete a miserable four days for the Nigerians. The Black stars of course will be on a high after their qualification and arguably start as favourites for the match.

So a very well done to the boys for qualifying for next year’s finals and let’s hope next year Ghana will be crowned African champions for the fifth time, it’s long overdue. However first things first though; Thus victory on Tuesday would cap an excellent four days for Ghana!

Leave your comments and reaction on the above.

Ben JK Anim-Antwi

African Cup of Nations: Ghana 3 -1 Congo

On the day that the Me FiRi GHANA Team launched the 2011 WAM Campaign at the Ghana High Commission (UK), the Ghana football team were playing an important match back in Ghana. The Black Stars emphatically beat Congo 3 goals to one in a must win game against Congo in an African Cup of Nations qualifier match; which took place in Kumasi.

To see some of the highlights, see the video below guys: