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Nyamweya goofed handling of derby chaos

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NAIROBI, Kenya, March 20- Once again, the country’s football finds itself in an offside position following the skirmishes that rocked the latest Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards clash.

Reported deaths that have not been confirmed, malicious damage to property, running battles, police lobbing tear gas and supremacy fights in the boardroom have trailed the bitter contest that ended in a barren stalemate.

Perhaps, it is an eerie indication of the real score line when the showdown between Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and Kenyan Premier League (KPL) that has erupted following the tempestuous game dies down.

On Monday, FKF emerged from an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting guns blazing as they laid the blame for the ugly incident squarely on KPL’s doormat.

The league management body had their security head, GMT Ottieno suspended from all football activity with the Logistics chief, Frank Okoth being directed to show reason why he should not be punished in seven days as KPL were demanded to produce their report to the incident in 48 hours.

Nyamweya went ahead to move the April 1 KPL Top 8 match between the archrivals to Mombasa as AFC talked of forfeiting the game altogether as they demanded to be awarded the points. For Gor, the referee, Davies Omweno was to blame.

FKF’s god speed in addressing the matter and lashing out at the implied ineptitude of KPL sought to convey the message that the federation was fully in charge of running the game- as if anyone needed a reminder.

On the other hand, the league management body is also culpable of not tightening all the loose screws that could have led to a disaster akin to the one that saw seven lives lost when the pair clashed in 2010 at the same stadium.

Nyamweya, who in his rapid fire diktats failed to specify what action would be taken on the club found guilty of sparking the melee, widely held to be Gor Mahia, unfortunately came out as intent on placing his perceived rivals in their place, rather than offer a solution to what has been a perennial problem with the derby.

Peddling the supposition that according to the rules, the referee should have called off the game after 15 minutes hold up reflects badly on the man who is meant to be a custodian of the football regulations in the country.

FIFA rules state, “The referee has the power to stop, suspend or abandon the match, at his discretion, for any infringements of the Laws and stop, suspend or abandon the match because of outside interference of any kind.”

Despite a woeful performance with the whistle, it was up to Omweno to declare whether the game could continue or not and after the flare-up stopped and both teams took to the field, the verdict to continue the game was right. In short, the 15 minute rule is a figment of FKF’s imagination.

That said, the joint FKF and KPL committee that appoints match referees played a part in sparking the riots with appointment of a match official who was clearly out of his depth for a game of such magnitude.

That is however no justification for irate supporters to go on rampage but it was a microcosm of the laxity in football management from both bodies that will surely invite a catastrophe of preposterous magnitude if not checked.

First, the Government report into the probe of the seven deaths at Nyayo and its recommendations is yet to be released two years down the line.

The investigation ordered by Prime Minister Raila Odinga that involved stadium security experts from the UK among others sought a root and branch approach to safety in our sports facilities for mass supporters.

It touched on every aspect including ticketing, marshalling and evacuation to rapid response in emergencies but could it have been so damning for authorities or so costly to implement that it remains canned at the Prime Minister’s office?

Unearthing this report could be the first step in treating the cancer that is hooliganism in Kenyan football.

Until repairs at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani are completed, such incidents will certainly occur when the two rivals meet since no other sporting facility in the country can adequately handle crowd control when Gor and AFC are involved.

Even with the heavy security presence at Nyayo on Sunday, its structural limitations impeded rapid response initiatives to trouble- a fact that Nyamweya and his NEC chose to ignore in their tirade.

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