Derby day maturity
Despite the skepticism surrounding the Tusker Premier League derby between AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia the “event” went ahead with minimal hitches.
Given that the first leg of this encounter, earlier this season, was stopped for nearly 20 minutes because of crowd trouble, many people weren’t sure what to expect. That match had resulted in frustrated fans stoning cars outside the stadium and forcing police to fire teargas into the crowds when fans started clashing with each other.
Unfortunately, that was the memory of most potential fans leading up to the derby over the weekend.
Throughout the week I had to continuously reassure fans on social media that the clubs, the league officials and the federation were working very closely with security forces to ensure that the event would run without trouble.
There were pros and there were some cons.
Kasarani generally is a much better venue for big games because of the size of the structure. The numerous entries into the stadium ensure that fans do not feel over-crowded. The gates are wide and access is much more accommodating of large crowds.
Kasarani is also situated a distance from the town centre and even if fans were to vent their frustrations outside the stadium, there are large fields in which to do so.
AFC Leopards fans accepted defeat gracefully and I must commend them for that as it’s usually the losing team’s fans that tend to spoil the party.
The game itself contributed to what would turn out to be a peaceful day; with Gor Mahia dominating the first half and scoring two goals; and AFC dominating the second; but only managing to score one goal. It was a fair game and when that happens, few can afford to feel aggrieved.
Two or so days before the game, fans from both clubs peacefully demonstrated in the streets in a show of solidarity towards a peaceful game day. I found that particularly mature and inspiring. The fans were consciously making the decision not to let a good game of football turn into an ugly spectacle. Clearly it worked.
Security officers were out in force on match-day and order was maintained, for the most part, while fans were entering the stadium.
The build up to the game was very interesting, with Gor Mahia providing most of the thrills. Coach Zdravko Logarusic’s being away created fodder for discussions; but clearly he had done his homework and knew what he needed to do ahead of the game. Gor having been given a week’s rest just two weeks before the game was also something interesting to talk about. Logarusic has brought in a new way of coaching to the Tusker Premier League and it’s something for other coaches to think about; and fans to be amused about.
Unfortunately, with another big event in the city over the same weekend, security forces insisted that the clubs limit the number of fan tickets being sold to 25 000. It looked like every single one of those 25 000 tickets were sold. For a stadium with a 63 000 fan capacity, I would have liked to see it almost full. Then again, I respect that the security was honest enough to say how many people they could manage.
Still on ticketing; AFC Leopards raised 4.5 million shillings in that game and yet it was clear to everyone that they should have raised more. Some fans were caught with counterfeit tickets and probably thousands of others weren’t. The CEO of the league, Jack Oguda, has since advised clubs to use electronic ticketing to avoid such incidents occurring. It is sad because home clubs deserve their dues but we don’t yet have air-tight methods to ensure they get it.
Early on Saturday morning there were reports of Gor fans sneaking into the stadium in the wee hours of the morning to hide for hours; so that they could get away with not paying. They were removed without force by security personnel. I found that a little humorous.
I was very disturbed though by the fan invasion of the pitch at the final whistle. I actually think the league and/or the federation should take action against this. Whether or not the fans get violent during such an episode is irrelevant; it should not happen. The players are tired at this point and just want to go and shower and rest; while television crew and equipment is strewn all over and needs to be protected.
A few Gor fans taunted AFC fans after the game but the Ingwe fans were mature enough not to retaliate. Unfortunately, in every crowd there will always be a group of uncultured goons, but luckily on the day these were a bare minimum. The large majority of the fans behaved.
All in all I think the day went very well. It was exciting to see Gor Mahia go top of the league; although Tusker reclaimed the top spot a day later.
For a moment the fans were on top of the world. The city was buzzing and even non-Tusker Premier League fans took notice.
There are five matches to go and the title is still wide open. The derby was crucial in terms of who would be Tusker’s biggest challenger. It looks like it will be Gor Mahia, so it’s even more thrilling to note that Gor and Tusker have yet to play each other.
For now though, I would just like to say well done to the country’s most successful clubs for completing Derby Day with relative maturity.