On July 9 2000, 12 soccer fans were crushed to death in a stampede at the giant National Sports Stadium during a 2002 World Cup qualifier match between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Inside Sport with Michael Kariati
The stampede was triggered by a finger gesture from South African striker Delroy Buckley after he had scored the goal that sent Zimbabwe crashing out of the run for a place at the World Cup finals.
The events of that day tell us how one single player’s behaviour on the field of play can stimulate dangerous emotions, especially upon defeat.
This brings me to the behaviour exhibited by Dynamos striker Roderick Mutuma. In as far as he is a good player — who loves the limelight so much — Mutuma’s antics on the field of play pose a real danger of one day instigating crowd trouble resulting in serious consequences.
In fact, Mutuma’s behaviour since his return from South Africa after failing to impress at Bloemfontein Celtic is a cause for concern and needs to be checked before it gets out of hand.
Those who watched the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Cup final will no doubt agree with me that had it been a match between Dynamos and Highlanders or CAPS United, Mutuma’s behaviour on that ZDF day could have easily instigated violence, especially if Dynamos were the losers.
The player’s hand antics the whole afternoon seemed aimed at giving the huge band of Dynamos supporters the impression that referee Pedzisayi Chadya was against their team.
The truth is that Mutuma’s overall behaviour in front of such a big crowd warranted ejection from the field, and further sanctions from the Zimbabwe Football Association or the Premier Soccer League.
Unfortunately, Chadya himself appeared intimidated by the player, or overawed by the occasion, to the extent that he allowed the self-proclaimed “Prince” to continue with the game.
Surely, there is need to monitor on field behaviour of players like Mutuma otherwise we risk falling into unwanted and avoidable tragedies.
Zimbabwe has already learnt how one player’s irresponsible behaviour is capable of sparking tragic fury and we need, as a nation, to avoid at all costs a repeat of the events of that black Sunday of July 9 2000.
Our football is already littered with tragedies. Apart from the death of those 12 at the National Sports Stadium, there was also the death of a Dynamos fan and another Highlanders supporter, both as a result of football violence.
We don’t need any more deaths.
Time is running out
It is now 12 days since Kalisto Pasuwa threw in the towel as coach of the Zimbabwe national soccer teams and we do not, up to now, have a replacement.
There are only 20 days remaining before Zimbabwe faces Guinea in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier and time is running out for us. With three points already in the bag, we are certainly on the right path to a third qualification to Africa’s biggest football competition.
We already have an advantage over our biggest challengers Guinea and Malawi and we need a win over the Syli Nationale to maintain that advantage and move closer to qualification.
What we need as a matter of urgency is the right choice of a coach and that appointment should be done immediately to give that person enough time to assess the players.
This is our best chance and we should not let it slip.
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