Senegal Fans Dent African Football
FINAL BALL by Godi Aniuzu
Cote D’Ivoire booked their place for next year’s African Nations Cup in South Africa after appalling scenes at the Leopold Sedar Senghor national stadium in Dakar. The Elephants had despatched the Lions of Senegal 4-2 in Abidjan in September meaning the Senegalese needed two unreplied goals to go through to the finals in South Africa. The prolific Didier Drogba struck with a freekick on 51 to open scoring but after he seemingly put the tie to bed with a penalty, all hell broke loose.
Missiles which included tin cans, stones, bottles and water bombs rained down on the pitch. The Ivorian players cowered in the centre circle with match officials protected by security forces. It took the use of tear gas to quell the trouble that lasted over 40 minutes before both teams and officials were safely escorted to the dresssing rooms. Eye witness account has it that about 300 visiting Ivorien fans were also protected in the midddle of the pitch as irate fans were evacuated.
The report is out already about Senegal’s ban from participating in the next African Cup of Nations as a result of the local FA’s inability to control fans. What remains unclear however is the lenght of the ban as the result over the two legs already nullifies Senegal’s ambitions for the next tournament. This unfortunate incident in a disgrace to African football and a return to soccer hooliganism in Senegal’s football. In the late 70s, notorious fans of POLICE FC of Senegal engaged in pitch invasions and riots whenever the team lost African continental club games at home. Clubs like Egypt’s Al Ahly, Nigeria’s Enugu Rangers International among others had their players suffering deep gashes and broken bones after attacks by Police of Senegal fans.
Senegalese Manager, Ferdinand Coly has expressed his regrets about the ugly incidents and expressed that Senegal will accept any following sanctions. A statement from Senegal’s sports minister, El Hadji Malick Gakou states that around 10 people suffered minor injuries including himself. That is clearly an understatement as hundreds choked from tear gas and scores of fans injured in the stampede that followed. Time has come for Senegal to learn lessons and clean up the game along with the rest of the world. CAF says that its decision to ban Senegal is in accordance with the provision of article 16 paragraph 20 of their regulations of the competion, which states:
“If the referee is forced to stop the match before the end of the regulation time because of invasion of the field or aggression against the visiting team, the host team shall be considered loser and shall be eliminated from the competition, without prejudice to the sanctions existing in the regulations.”
The Final Ball insists that the disqualification of Senegal from the 2103 African Cup Of Nations on its own will not serve as a sufficient sanction for bringing the game to disrepute in the form of hooliganism. As a deterrent to other African football associations, a lenghty ban may be required to battle football ills such as this.
However, Senegal Football Federation president, Augustine Senghor descibed the incident as a sabotage that was carefully planned and executed by those who wanted to destroy the nation’s football and bring discredit to the governing body. He stated that individual ordered match tickets to distribute to ruffians purposely to disrupt the return leg encounter between Senegal and Ivory Coast.
In his very own words, “We strongly believe it was an act of sabotage set up by an individual or group of persons to distabilise Senegal’s football. Someone ordered many tickets for hooligans to disrupt the meeting at the stadium. They want to soil the reputation of our football. They want our home ground to be suspended by CAF. They were simply wishing us failure so that they can criticise us before the fans and the entire nation.”
The Final Ball also understands that accusing fingers point former Senegalese captain, El Hadji Diouf as the individual who procured bulk tickets for that game. On Monday after the incident, former Liverpool winger Diouf declared that the Senegalese football association had impounded the 1000 tickets he had ordered with the honest intention to distribute to his fans for the game. He has denied any involvement in the violence and urged the government to dismiss all the members of the association and appoint a new group that will overhaul football in Senegal.
The fact remains that FIFA will not entertain government involvement in association football and a player of Diouf’s status show have known this. His plea for the government to intervene beggars belief and questions his true intentions. Whatever happens, African football has been dented and shamed by the violence in Senegal and the inquest has to gather gear. The world of football awaits CAF’s ultimate verdict on this one as the global war to stamp out football violence and hooliganism rages on.