I have witnessed debates on whether or not the punishment that the Super League of Malawi (Sulom) exacted on Mighty Wanderers last weekend is enough to bring about the required reformation among the fans who easily lose their heads whenever results on the pitch do not go their way, but it is nonetheless good that some sort of action has been taken if only to show that authorities will not tolerate such mischief.
But while commending Sulom for its decisive action, I am still inclined to go back to the point in one of my previous discussions on whether the game has done enough to effectively prevent hooliganism at our football venues apart from identifying and isolating the really small minority of football fans that conspire to give supporters a bad name through their inexcusable and retrogressive behaviour.
Football teams are the easy scapegoat when violence takes place before, during and after matches but just how has the game empowered them to be on top of the situation? What are the respective roles of the clubs, stadium owners, supporters and the football authorities themselves in ensuring that the conditions at football venues make it difficult for anyone to succumb to the temptation to engage in violence?
More importantly, if I engaged in football hooliganism today and nothing happened to me, the likelihood that I am going to repeat that behaviour, even with more intensity and passion, is very high. What measures has the game put in place to ensure that such people can be properly identified and handed appropriate sanctions that not only prevent a repeat, but also deter others from joining the ranks?
One of the last assignments I undertook on the sports desk 10 years ago was attending a workshop sponsored by the British government aimed at dealing with violence at football matches and it drew together as many stakeholders as possible not only to determine the root causes of hooliganism, but also to find ways of preventing and handling it when it occurs. How much of that is in use right now, if I may ask?
Away from home, the Flames are in Zambia where they join the 2013 Cosafa tournament later this afternoon with a quarterfinal tie against Zimbabwe. Having joined the party at this stage it is very important that we win this match lest we return home after featuring in just one match. New coach Tom Saintfiet needs to see his team in competitive action to come up with the right tactics against Nigeria’s Super Eagles.
Talk of Saintfiet, I am still struggling to understand what the whole hullaballoo about his hiring is all about. Are people against the person or the whole idea of bringing in an expatriate coach? If it is about Saintfiet, who would those against him rather have? If the issue is about patriotism or xenophobia — depending on how one chooses to look at it — what are the merits or demerits of going for an expatriate?
To me, there is no question that we need to beat Nigeria in order to move to the final qualifier phase of next year’s World Cup in Brazil and FAM has been entrusted with the responsibility to see that done. If the association feels the best coach for us to achieve that is Saintfiet I would propose that we allow it to go ahead without distractions. Walter Nyamilandu and his team should rise and fall on the outcome of their decision.