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Saturday Star - - NEWS - SAMEER NAIK

IT ALL HAP­PENED so fast. Be­fore Sa­belo Maz­iba could re­act, he was vi­ciously at­tacked by a mob of an­gry foot­ball fans who in­vaded the pitch.

He took a kick to the stom­ach, which floored him im­me­di­ately. He then curled up into a ball to try to pro­tect him­self,while rowdy fans kicked him un­til he was unconscious and bloody.

The 32-year-old se­cu­rity guard at the sta­dium thought Maz­iba had taken his last breath. He lay unconscious on the pitch, be­fore paramedics rushed him to the near­est hospi­tal. As he was taken away, rowdy foot­ball fans con­tin­ued to cause havoc by rip­ping out seats and set­ting them alight. They also de­stroyed broad­cast equip­ment worth mil­lions.

Maz­iba wasn’t the only one who was beaten up by an­gry foot­ball fans on the night. At least 17 oth­ers were in­jured.

The hor­rific in­ci­dent, which sent shock­waves around South Africa, took place three weeks ago at Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium in Dur­ban, fol­low­ing Kaizer Chiefs’ de­feat to Free State Stars in the Ned­bank Cup semi­fi­nal.

How­ever, this was no iso­lated in­ci­dent, with hooli­gan­ism be­com­ing a shame­ful theme in South African foot­ball.

Just last year, crowd vi­o­lence erupted at the game be­tween Or­lando Pi­rates and Mamelodi Sun­downs at Lof­tus Sta­dium.

As a re­sult, Pi­rates were or­dered by the Premier Soc­cer League to play two home games in a closed sta­dium.

Foot­ball vi­o­lence in South Africa has be­come such a prob­lem that Deputy Po­lice Min­is­ter Bon­gani Mkongi told MPS in Par­lia­ment this week that foot­ball hooli­gan­ism was be­com­ing a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity. Brief­ing Par­lia­ment’s port­fo­lio com­mit­tees on po­lice and sport, Mkongi said he sup­ported a re­quest by Sports and Recre­ation Min­is­ter Thokozile Xasa to Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa for an in­quiry into in­creas­ing vi­o­lence at foot­ball matches.

The world has taken no­tice, too. The in­ci­dent at Moses Mab­hida was aired in sev­eral coun­tries around the world. One per­son who took par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in the hor­ror was lead­ing hooli­gan­ism ex­pert Dr Ge­off Pearson.

Pearson, a law lec­turer at the Univer­sity of Manch­ester in the UK, was hor­ri­fied by the scenes that unfolded at Moses Mab­hida. South Africa, he be­lieves, is one of the coun­tries most af­fected by foot­ball hooli­gan­ism.

“I would say that South Africa clearly has a prob­lem with hooli­gan­ism, as do many African coun­tries with de­vel­oped leagues,” Pearson told the Satur­day Star this week.

“There are also prob­lems in much of South Amer­ica and also much of eastern Europe (for ex­am­ple, Rus­sia, Poland, Ukraine and Ser­bia).”

Pearson, who spent years re­search­ing foot­ball vi­o­lence in Europe, said the hooli­gan­ism that oc­curred at Moses Mab­hida was some­thing he hadn’t seen much of in Europe.

“This type of dis­or­der is very rare in Europe, but our re­search sug­gests that fans don’t all in­ter­pret sce­nar­ios like this in the same way.

“I can­not tell you the ex­act rea­son why this oc­curred in South Africa. You would need to ask those fans who ran on the pitch and en­gaged in dis­or­der why they did so.”

There are mul­ti­ple rea­sons why foot­ball fans en­gage in vi­o­lence, said Pearson.

“Some fans may go to matches with the in­ten­tion to fight or en­gage in dis­or­der – if so, they tend to do this be­cause they en­joy the emo­tional sensation (the ‘buzz’) of en­gag­ing in this ac­tiv­ity, or they may wish to en­hance the rep­u­ta­tion of their team, city, or fans.

“Oth­ers may get caught up in in­ci­dents when they had no in­ten­tion of en­gag­ing in dis­or­der, but feel jus­ti­fied in do­ing so. But there isn’t a sin­gle cause or ex­pla­na­tion for foot­ball fan vi­o­lence.”

In South Africa, hooli­gan­ism has been lim­ited to soc­cer, be­cause other ma­jor sports, such as rugby and cricket, rarely ex­pe­ri­ence vi­o­lence.

Pearson said there were a num­ber of rea­sons why vi­o­lence was more preva­lent in foot­ball.

“Not only do you have to look at the com­par­a­tive size of the crowds at­tend­ing, but also the rep­u­ta­tion of foot­ball, which may draw those who do want to fight to the sport.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, this rep­u­ta­tion may mean that the po­lice use more ag­gres­sive tac­tics against foot­ball fans rather than fans of other sports, which may lead to more dis­or­der. But, of course, vi­o­lence does oc­cur in other sports.

“In Eng­land, we have seen it in boxing, rugby league, rugby union, cricket, and even darts.”

Pearson added that hooli­gan­ism in foot­ball var­ied from coun­try to coun­try .

“Fans of dif­fer­ent teams or in dif­fer­ent coun­tries have slightly dif­fer­ent ways of sup­port­ing their team.

“For some teams, a his­tory of dis­or­der may in­deed be some­thing that is cel­e­brated by at least by some of the fans (even those who do not en­gage in dis­or­der them­selves).”

There were sev­eral ways that hooli­gan­ism in foot­ball could be re­duced.

“It’s pos­si­ble through good polic­ing, im­proved sta­dium in­fra­struc­ture and ef­fec­tive laws and sanc­tions to limit both pre-or­gan­ised fights or large scale spon­ta­neous dis­or­der.

“But you will never get to a sit­u­a­tion where you can guar­an­tee that there won’t be iso­lated in­ci­dents be­cause ul­ti­mately foot­ball crowds are a mi­cro­cosm of so­ci­ety.”

Anas­tas­sia Tsoukala, one of the au­thors of Foot­ball Hooli­gan­ism in Europe and a lec­turer at the Univer­sity of Paris, be­lieved that foot­ball re­lated in­ci­dents were usu­ally con­nected with over­lap­ping iden­tity-re­lated is­sues.

“Foot­ball crowd vi­o­lence may be as­so­ci­ated with the process of be­long­ing to (post) ado­les­cent peer groups that seek to as­sert their iden­tity in the face both of parental author­ity and the rest of so­ci­ety,” said Tsoukala.

“It may ex­press po­lit­i­cal iden­ti­ties, with fans seek­ing to pro­mote rad­i­cal ide­olo­gies or to ex­press dis­si­dence.

“It may also ex­press re­li­gious iden­ti­ties; it may ex­press gen­der iden­ti­ties, with young fans seek­ing to af­firm their viril­ity; it may ex­press ter­ri­to­rial iden­ti­ties, rang­ing from the lo­cal to the na­tional level, and so on.”

Tsoukala said that sports crowd vi­o­lence tended to hap­pen with the most pop­u­lar sports.

“Pop­u­lar­ity im­plies pas­sion­ate fan­dom, ex­panded prac­tice of the sport across the coun­try and hence high med­i­ta­tion of rel­e­vant fix­tures,” she said.

Tsoukala said sur­veil­lance-based polic­ing wasn’t ef­fec­tive enough to curb foot­ball hooli­gan­ism.

“Aca­demic re­search and law en­forcers’ ex­pe­ri­ence have clearly shown that this form of polic­ing has been coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, as it dis­placed vi­o­lence and dis­or­der to sur­round­ing ur­ban spa­ces and rad­i­calised fans’ be­hav­iour, and is un­demo­cratic due to its propen­sity to jeop­ar­dise the rule of law and fans’ rights and lib­er­ties.”

Foot­ball crowd vi­o­lence may be ef­fec­tively coun­tered “only through long-term so­cial pre­ven­tive poli­cies,” the au­thor said.

South Africa clearly has a prob­lem with hooli­gan­ism

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