One of the safe venues for sports in Ghana is Kumasi’s Baba Yara Sports Stadium. Be it college football or international football, college athletics or international athletics meet, trust the Kumasi fans to throng to the Baba Yara Sports Stadium to offer their unflinching support, mostly in an incident-free manner. Kumasi fans have carved a niche for themselves for usually comporting themselves even in the face of defeat for their teams. No wonder fans of some clubs in Ghana tease Asante Kotoko as the team in Ghana that hates the sight of trophies. According to these teasing fans, Asante Kotoko has lost finals of major championships at home more than any other Ghanaian club. They cite the 1967 cup loss to TP Engelbert, now TP Mazembe, the 2002 loss to WAC of Morocco and the 2004 loss to Hearts of Oak in the maiden Confederation Cup as examples. But I consider these defeats of Kumasi Asante Kotoko in the finals of Cup competitions as tests to the character of their fans and indeed, they have passed each one of these tests. Any other club in Ghana or elsewhere on the continent may cause trouble if home fans find their fingers slipping off a trophy that they have yearned years to grab. I really don’t want to discuss in detail what happened at the Accra Sports Stadium in 2000 when Hearts of Oak were down 1-0 to Esperance in the finals of the CAF Champions League.
Inasmuch as the spectators at the Kumasi Baba Yara Sports Stadium may be cosmopolitan, credit must be given to the way they comport themselves. No wonder Black Stars matches were moved to Kumasi because of the unflinching support the fans give the senior national soccer team until a recent power failure forced the football governing body of the world, FIFA, to order Black Stars matches away from the Baba Yara Sports Stadium. FIFA awaits a report on that flood light failure during the Ghana-Lesotho World Cup qualifier. But for that, the Kumasi Stadium would have remained home for the Black Stars.
The manner Kumasi fans comported themselves in 2000 when Ghana lost an Africa Cup of Nations quarter final match to South Africa influenced the Confederation of African Football to reward the venue with the best behaved fans award that year.
Complaint neither here nor there
But what I saw on tube regarding the reaction of Kumasi fans at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium after the Asante Kotoko-Heart of Lions Premier League match raised my hackles. For once, I thought it was a different venue other than the Baba Yara Sports Stadium. In fact, what fans of Kotoko were complaining about was neither here nor there. What fans of every club must have at the back of their minds is that there are three possible results from every football match – win, draw or lose. The aim of every club is to win but when it gets tough, a draw is settled for. The clamour of Kotoko fans to win the match at all cost because they had drawn their two previous games smacked of ignorance. It must be condemned in no uncertain terms.
From my point of view, the team that should rather have complained louder was Heart of Lions. Yes! This is because the penalty referee Sumaila Ibrahim awarded against the Kpando lads was rather cheating. Nonetheless, the Kumasi fans jubilated at the awarding of the penalty and no one raised any finger against the referee for cheating Lions in that instance. I only found a few players of Heart of Lions complaining to referee Ibrahim to no avail. But immediately a penalty was awarded against Asante Kotoko, the fans started throwing water bottles and satchets onto the pitch to register their displeasure at the referee’s decision. Inasmuch as that decision was also wrong, I knew it was a latent appeasement by the referee to Heart of Lions for that wrong call earlier.
Indeed, after a match ends, legal procedures are made available if a team felt shortchanged during a match. For that matter, I expected the fans who threw the water bottles onto the pitch to have followed these procedures to register their displeasure. But to go to the extent of stopping Metro TV’s presenter from conducting the post-match interviews was unfortunate.
CAF ban for Kotoko
From that incident, I felt Kumasi fans are not considering how they are gradually destroying the reputation they have won for themselves in the past years. This incident comes a year after some unscrupulous fans incised cables of Optimum Media Prime forcing the broadcast house to lay embargo on the stadium. Few years earlier, Kotoko were banned from playing at home by CAF after a section of their fans attacked a FIFA referee, Koffi Codjia, in a Champions League Match against Etoile Sportive du Sahel. I just hope the fans learn from these incidents but if not, the Premier League Board should crack the whip.