Why hooliganism must be shown the red card in Kenyan football

© Imago Images

FOOTBALL Why hooliganism must be shown the red card in Kenyan football

Festus Chuma 09:30 - 14.10.2023

Football in Kenya unites many, but rising hooliganism threatens its essence, urging true fans to safeguard the sport's bright future.

Football in Kenya, with its undying passion and fervor, is more than just a game—it is an emotion that binds millions. From the breathtaking goals scored in the Football Kenya Federation Premier League to the heart-stopping moments in the National Super League, the sport is an integral part of Kenya's culture. Yet, as with many aspects of society, there is a shadow that sometimes darkens its beauty: hooliganism.

With a profound impact on Kenya's socio-economic landscape, football is not merely about 22 players chasing a ball; it is about unity, identity, and aspiration. In Kenya, football matches are community events that draw people from different walks of life together. Such is the game's beauty that it makes strangers shout in unison, celebrating every goal, every win. The sport transcends age, gender, and physical stature, connecting fans young and old, men and women, short and tall.

But just as a beautiful painting might have blotches, so does Kenyan football have its share of issues. Among them, the persistent menace of hooliganism stands out.

Recent events, like the aborted match between Muhoroni Youth and KCB due to violent fan reactions, are glaring reminders of the problem. Such incidents cause irreparable damage to the sport's image, scare away potential sponsors, and, most importantly, put innocent lives at risk.

One wonders why, even with advanced technological aids like 'CCTV cameras' in stadiums, perpetrators continue to evade justice. The answer, perhaps, lies in a combination of lax enforcement and a lack of severe repercussions for clubs associated with such acts.

If one delves deep into the history of Kenyan football, it is evident that these acts of aggression are not the doings of the majority but a select few. Yet, the ramifications of their actions cast a shadow over the entire fanbase. And while some clubs distance themselves from such elements, claiming they aren't "real" fans, the connection between such behavior and the dwindling sponsorship deals cannot be ignored.

When one looks at global football giants like Manchester United or Barcelona, it is not evident that their success is not just due to on-field prowess but a meticulously maintained off-field image. An image that attracts big sponsors and, in turn, funds their aspirations. The Kenyan clubs, by allowing hooliganism to persist, are inadvertently pushing away the very lifeline they need.

But what is the solution? Deducting points or goals, banning trouble-causing fans, or making clubs secure their own stadiums may deter such behavior. However, the real change can only come from within. The clubs must recognize the gravity of the situation and actively work towards curbing these acts. Playing matches in empty stadiums not only deprives the club of gate collections but also sends a clear message: violence will not be tolerated.

Further, a stringent set of rules must be in place. A club associated with unruly fans should face severe penalties. Multiple offenses should lead to the club's relegation. Such actions might seem harsh, but they are necessary to ensure the sanctity of the sport.

Most importantly, the 'true' fans must step up. It is their responsibility as much as the club's to ensure a safe environment. They must separate themselves from the hooligans and work towards changing the narrative. After all, if the majority can shout in unison for a goal, they can certainly unite against those tarnishing their beloved sport.

Football in Kenya is a source of joy, pride, and unity. It's a sport that has given so much to the country. But as fans and custodians of this beautiful game, it's our duty to protect it from the shadows of violence and ensure its future shines brightly.