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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

As the Ethiopian Premier League football club competition only four matches away from conclusion, violence and break down of discipline in different venues are increasing in alarming speed.
The country's football governing body, the Ethiopian Football Federation, (EFF), issued a statement on Saturday warning clubs to strictly respect law and order.
This statement was issued in the wake of the crowd disturbance on Friday, June 10, that led to the disruption of the match between Coffee and Hawasa City. "This was terrible, many people were hurt, property was damaged, the chairs used as weapons to attack rivals," the EFF said in the statement.
The EFF further said that it has begun disciplinary proceedings against Coffee after the totally unacceptable scenes at Friday's Coffee-Hawassa City match.
TV footage appears to show Coffee fans throwing materials at the officials and an attempt to invade the pitch. The Addis Ababa Police Commission also said that as a result of crowd disturbances property was damaged and many people went to hospitals to get treatment.
Many fans, including families with children, tried to escape the trouble by frantically leaving their seats at the stadium.
Judging from attendance, trouble began in the stadium after Hawassa scored the leading goal in the first half. Two players went to the assistant referee and complained, though, he (the assistant) didn't accept the complaints. The score at the interval remained 1-0 in favour of Hawassa City.
The people expected Coffee to change the result in the second 45 minutes but rather the crowed began disturbances and the play was forced to come to a halt. Some then climbed across barriers designed to keep the crowd apart from the pitch.
In some cases others climb barriers to cause chaos in the other wing. Then they began throwing the chairs and other materials to the officials. The Police tried to intervene but it was not possible to put things in order.
When some of them began tearing down billboards fixed at the stadium, things went from bad to worse.
Tearing billboards is not acceptable. The mother companies paid in millions of birr for the federation to use the space for the promotion of their products. Violating this contractual agreement with the federation is punishable under the Commercial Code of the country.
According to the Police report, the crowd after leaving the stadium violently confronted with security forces. Private and government cars were stoned and property was damaged outside the stadium, the police reported.
The police said it sent extra force to put things under control. This kind of behaviour is not acceptable, said the Police in the report.
What we have seen in this season is that violence raises serious questions. A few days ago in a crowd disturbance in Gondar that happened in the match between Coffee and Dashen Brewery, many people were harmed. As a result Dashen Brewery faced a 35,000 birr penalty while Coffee fined 10,000 birr for provoking the Dashen supporters. In that incident the Coffee and Dashen fans were embroiled in ugly clashes with each other and a number of bloodied fans being taken to hospital in Gondar. Those who seriously wounded were taken to Addis Ababa.
The Ethiopian Football Federation in a strongly-worded statement said it would not hesitate to impose sever punishment over the perpetrators. The EFF also warns it will take the same strong action if such violence occurs again.
What was observed is that there are people who do not come to the stadium for the football. Spectators who were at the match have described the incident as disgusting. Most of the spectators tried to run away. Few spoke about lax security.
In April this year many people were hurt when violence erupted during the match between defending champions St. George and the visiting side Adama City at the Addis Ababa Stadium.
At that time we wrote that violence during football matches is not new at the stadium but this time it becomes frequent. The steady increase in the rate of violent confrontation among the football fans is indeed alarming.
The game of football may be associated with violence in many parts of the world. Elsewhere the national federations make studies how to reduce violence in football but in our case we don't see anything in that direction. What we now know commonly is to read reports on crowd behaviour as much as on the game itself.
Like it was in the past a sudden fist fighting and chair throwing began last Friday. By law this act is punishable. The camera took all the action. Some were seen throwing chairs wearing the shirts of the team they support. What does that mean? The team that they support will surely get penalty as a result.
In the international arena violence erupts either due to the emergence of overt racism at football matches or the alleged influence of alcohol consumption. Black players were often greeted with monkey-noises and bananas. It seems now this trend has declined in Europe. The recent decline may be explained due to campaigns designed to combat racism. Other measures like severe penalty imposed on the teams helped reduce the rate of violence.
This violent behaviour at the stadium is known as 'football hooliganism' at this time. It was originated in England in the early 1960s, and has been linked with the televising of matches (and of pitch-invasions, riots etc.) In other European countries, similar patterns of behaviour emerged almost same time.
If there is one preventive method, use as it is done in Europe and elsewhere in the world: sophisticated policing, surveillance and monitoring techniques and segregation of fans. It is also good to introduce specific legislation to cover acts of 'hooliganism'. The wrong doers must be legally responsible for what they committed at the stadium.