By Bongani Inkunzi Ndlovu
THE verdict is out and Highlanders have been fined for causing the stoppage of their match against bitter rivals, Dynamos, at Barbourfields Stadium on May 14.
The match abandoned in the 42nd minute has been awarded to DeMbare on a 3–0 score line and Bosso have been handed a $4 000 fine.
Highlanders were found guilty after their fans threw missiles onto the pitch after second assistant referee Thomas Kusosa didn’t flag DeMbare striker Christian Epoupa’s equaliser for offside.
A lot of theories and interpretations of the offside rule have been thrown around, but without anyone giving a compelling argument for their position.
However, there is a serious problem at Zimbabwe’s football stadia where violence often rears its ugly head as happened on May 14 at Barbourfields Stadium.
When some fans are disgruntled by a referee’s decision, they resort to throwing missiles onto the pitch.
The question is how these missiles find their way into our stadia when clubs pay security to weed out such weapons that cause stoppages. And also why are people going to stadiums with the drive to throw missiles as an expression of disgruntlement.
However emotions are hard to decipher, but the weapons that arm hooligans to disrupt matches and cause violence and harm each other should be interrogated as to how they enter stadiums in Zimbabwe.
It’s something that has been going on every season, but nothing seems to be done about it.
What caused the stoppage of the Highlanders and Dynamos should be condemned in totality. However, no amount of awareness campaigns, fining or lobbying will stop this from happening as long as people manage to smuggle missiles into stadia.
These missiles range from sticks, stones, empty glass bottles to plastic containers of illicit alcohol, such as 250ml of Tentacao.
No amount of appeal from football administrators or meetings with the Ministry of Sport and Recreation or the Sports and Recreation Commission will stop people from throwing missiles as long as they enter stadia with such things.
No amount of police presence at matches will stop people from throwing missiles onto the pitch as long as there are no arrests of missile throwers.
Police were armed with truncheons, shields and water cannons, but not a single person was arrested for the disturbances that caused the stoppage.
Why then do we have police at stadia when disturbances occur in their presence — to throw tear gas instead of just rooting out trouble causers?
Those that smuggle illicit alcohol access the stadium early in the morning and stash it at strategic points so they can sell it to the masses.
Some fans operate as syndicates to hand each other alcohol through vents at toilets and these containers are later used as missiles.
One group goes in first and the other passes on the weapons from outside the stadium through the toilets.
At Barbourfields Stadium, some of those who sell fruits, peanuts and ice cream somehow enter the stadium with the alcohol.
Why isn’t there a thorough sweep of the stadium earlier?
Zimbabwe seems to be behind in terms of technology to capture contentious decisions such as the one Kusosa made during the disputed match.
While SuperSport should be commended for televising Zimbabwean football to the rest of Africa and the world, six or seven cameras are not enough to capture the whole match.
Now a match report by the referee and the match commissioner cannot be disputed because we’re relying on their eyes and interpretation for an independent panel to judge whether they were right or wrong. The alleged Highlanders’ supporters and referees’ committee also rely on footage from social media by a fan who was recording from their cell phone.
Giving SuperSport exclusive rights to televise matches means matches that are not aired live or action that is missed by their cameras is lost forever.
A lot has to be done and the starting point is to prevent missiles from entering our stadia by the police and those hired to provide security.
Owners of various stadia such as the Bulawayo City Council, who are paid by clubs, also have to shoulder the blame. They should make their infrastructure secure so that people find it hard to smuggle weapons into the stadium.
They should work in tandem with the police, who can give suggestions on how to make the stadium more secure.
It’s not up to one entity from our local football to come up with a lasting solution to curb violence at stadia, but it’s a collective effort.
For as long as all this is left to individual clubs, this scourge of violence will continue to plague our game.