It’s as if they were waiting for the Ghana Football Association (GFA) President, Kurt Okraku, to finish his peace tour of the Bono and Ahafo regions so they show him that, whatever he said on violence during his tour last week was irrelevant. I am not here to fault Kurt’s peace tour, which saw some of the top brass of the GFA, traveling hundreds of kilometers with him to the middle and northern belts of the country to engage club owners and administrators on the need to play football in a peaceful environment.
But, Ebusua Dwarfs’ coach, Ernest Thompson Quartey’s narrative of how Berekum Chelsea fans beat him on suspicion of possessing juju, leads me to question the impact of the peace tour. “They wanted to search me because they were suspecting I had juju on me,'' Thompson said in a video posted on social media. ''So when I said no, it was only my phone and other things [in my pocket], they forcibly opened my zip…When I tried to resist, they started punching me, I fell down, and some were kicking me.
''This shouldn't be happening in Ghana football in this day and age. We have come of age, we are in the scientific world to be pummeled, kicked and all that. I have a family at home. I can't die because of football.'' Hard questions have to be asked of the GFA and of the Police administration, in whose remit, incidents of lawlessness fall squarely. GFA does not want to be named in these issues but they invariably will suffer the mortal damage arising from violence and the attendant Police inaction.
That’s the reason I have advocated a no holds bar GFA-Police engagement, not a private boardroom conversation which comes across as a public relations exercise. Violence cannot be tackled with seemingly indifferent attitude to open, hard talk. I watched with admiration how the GFA President in September 2020 decisively addressed Congress – virtually calling out misbehaving members of the association. Of course, it’s not Congress time and we can’t call out the Police anyhow.
However, lives are at stake. The football business is on the line. We risk losing precious lives at the stadium if immediate, decisive steps are not taken to combat violence. The GFA President’s remark that he is not the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to arrest hooligans was unfortunate regardless of how he sought to explain himself. He had an opportunity on Joy FM to inspire confidence. He rather gave no hope on how they would deal with violence with Police expertise.
As Dwarfs’ coach stated, he has a family back home. Why must he be beaten and his life endangered because of football? Our football is offering a lawless turf for hoodlums. Fans beat referees anyhow and now they are brazenly turning their primitive acts on coaches. They are sure of no Police arrest. The Police appear helpless and miserable. Why should football hooligans get away with crime – the exact crime the law would punish appropriately if it happens outside football.
Lives shouldn’t be lost again before we wake up to the fact that hooliganism has taken a comfortable seat in our game but it deserves no such seat. The talk about the Police not having adequate numbers re-emphasises what is a national problem. The notion that the police aren’t deployed at the stadium to arrest lawless fans is untenable.
The claim that the police live with the hooligans, hence there is a difficulty in arresting them may be true but so inexcusable. Hooligans must be arrested and prosecuted. Limbs must not be mutilated, faces wounded and disfigured, lives lost before we get tough on violence. The GFA and the Police must wake up.