Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Face of Hooliganism

Any professional footballer would most probably attest to this- the sight and sound of thousands of screaming fans can be quite an intimidating prospect. Atleast when they are not singing and chanting your praises. It is not uncommon for visiting teams to conveniently blame their loss on the unforgiving twelfth man – the fans!

It was a different story all together last Friday afternoon when Gor Mahia FC played Nairobi City Stars to an empty gallery at the Nyayo National Stadium, following the Independent Disciplinary and Appeals Committee's (IDAC) ruling over alleged misconduct by the former's fans during a previous league match.

If a full to capacity attendance can be intimidating, on the converse, an empty one can be unflatteringly imposing by the depth of its hollowness. What with the reverberating echoes of agitated team officials shouting instructions on the touchline ringing out against the yawning terraces.

For once Gor Mahia's players would have to endure the full ninety minutes on the pitch devoid of the familiar “Gor Biro, Yawne Yo!” war-song that has spurred them on to many memorable conquests in the past. But K'ogallo is famous for its religiously loyal fans who can practically move heaven and earth just to cheer their team to victory.

Long before the 3pm kick-off time, a seizable horde of Gor Mahai fans are already milling around the VIP Entrance. Inspite of the heavy police presence around the stadium's precincts, its just business as usual for these fans – even if it means following the proceedings from outside the stadium.

Inside the stadium, a dull scenario plays itself out as both teams labour through an uneventful first half, though the Kawangware-based Stars seem to be the more composed and creative side. All nought stands the half time score.

Come second half and the power balance dramatically shifts in favour of the home team. Just ten minutes after the breather, a goal bound shot from George 'Blackberry' Odhiambo is handled in the box by a City Stars defender. After much remonstration, a calm Julius 'Awilo' Owino coolly slots in the penalty for K'ogallo.

Now thats when the house come down! Jubilation rings out around the ghost arena. But where are the fans? Lo and behold... a closer scrutiny reveals a handful of fans precariously clutched from the outside of Gate 3 on the eastern side of the stadium. What innovation!

But more drama is still yet to come. A reckless challenge by Gor's centre half Mohammed Musa on Jimmy Bageye inside the box wins City Stars a penalty in the 75th minute. A perfect chance to even the score. Gor Mahia bench as expected is livid. Their indignation is however allayed by their custodian Fredrick Onyango who stretches full length to parry a weak shot from ex-international Justus Basweti for an abortive corner.

Unfortunately, thats just about it as a far as action on the pitch is concerned. An industrious yet clueless City Stars is left huffing and puffing for the next quarter of an hour to no avail. Its a sweet first win of the season for Mighty Gor... and how the fans who had been camping outside the stadium all along celebrate!

“Beneungeyo... Ndalooo... Ndalo Machon... Ok newangeyo!!”

“Gooorr... Gor Mahia... Pinje duto ywakni!!”

The loyal fans are in a carnival mood and it all calls for a song and dance as the gates are finally flung open for the marauding crowd. “Nyaka wagwedh pap” (we have to bless this stadium), one jubilant fan is heard saying.

But if you think that K'ogallo fans will just leave it at that having been denied a chance to watch their team chalk up a famous victory, you are dead wrong. Jubilation quickly degenerates to wrath as hooliganism which is almost synonymous with these fans rears its ugly head again. This time round their object of fury is non other than KPL CEO Jack Oguda whom they quickly find fault for their predicament.

One moment they are singing their hearts out, the next moment they are haranguing and roughing up the pitiful Oguda. Its only the swift and timely intervention of police officers that puts him out of harm's way in the face of a certainly nasty brush with the infamously notorious K'ogallo fans. As a rule of thumb, at this point its time to make a quick beeline for the exit.

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