03 November 2009

Time to sterilize Rangasala

Is anyone really shocked by the missile throwing incident at the AFC Under 19 match between Nepal and Jordan? From the Aaha Gold Cup in Pokhara to the Martyrs Memorial League matches in Kathmandu to even pick-up games in the rice fields of the Terrai – spectator disobedience has become part and parcel of Nepali football.

With football officials setting terrible examples by bullying their way into stadiums without proper accreditation or shouting obscenities throughout matches, and the police boxing themselves in to corners of the stadium where they laugh and giggle with each other like nursery school kids while having little manoeuvrability to respond quickly to incidents - even the casual fan quickly realizes that Kurukshetra is literally a stone’s throw away when attending a football match.

While admittedly many of our spectators have a lot of growing-up to do, football officials and the police must share the blame for the continued security lapses at matches. For our football officials security basically means making sure the police are present at the event, and for the cops it means having enough lumber to lathi charge fans after they misbehave. This obsolete view of security needs to change.

Along with proper sports centric security planning and training, the authorities need to also try to change the hostile culture that exists at football games. Incentives to lure women and children to matches, keeping the stadium constantly clean and ancillary entertainment options for spectators (food, prizes, cheerleaders, etc.) are some ways they can start to sterilize the atmosphere. While some may feel that this will turn football stadiums into meditation centers, I would argue that Nepali football never has had a passionate supporters culture in the first place, so I fail to see what we would lose other than a bunch of trouble makers and continued fines from the AFC .