On May 9, 2001, 126 football fans lost their lives in a tragic incident that occurred at the Accra Sports Stadium. The incident happened during a match between archrivals, Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko. Though twenty-two years have passed since the disaster, Ghanaians have continued to mourn the departed every year. Unfortunately, hooliganism continues to plague Ghanaian football, resulting in casualties in recent seasons.
One of the incidents that drew wide condemnation occurred in 2014 when the assistant referee, Kwame Andoh Kyei, died from injuries sustained after being beaten by fans during a lower-tier match between Gold Stars and Naa Joe United. Kyei was only 21 and regarded as one of the association’s most promising up-and-coming referees.
In 2016, fans of Hearts of Oak became unruly during a game against Wa All Stars, throwing objects onto the field and pelting the referee and his assistants with bottles and sachet water. Hearts of Oak were hit with a three-match home ban and fined GH¢12,000.
In 2019, referee Theresa Bremansu was beaten mercilessly by Prison Ladies FC players and sympathisers during a women’s league match. Bremansu, one of Ghana’s top female referees, did not add additional time when the 90 minutes elapsed during a match against Ampem Darkoa Ladies. Prison Ladies were fined GH¢5,000 by the GFA.
In 2020, a Kotoko supporter was shot in the eye after crowd violence following Asante Kotoko’s 1-0 defeat to Berekum Chelsea in a league match. Fans hurled missiles onto the Baba Yara Stadium pitch to show their displeasure at a refereeing decision taken by the centre referee, Charles Bulu. The GFA handed Kotoko a temporary ban, and the fan underwent successful surgery.
In 2022, officials and players of FC Samartex 1996 were brutally attacked by Skyy FC supporters during a Division One League match in Daboase. The game ended 1-1, and the fans beat up some players and officials of Samartex, leading to a home ban by the GFA.
For the most part, hooliganism in football is a problem that continues to plague the sport globally, and Ghana is not immune to it. The May 9th disaster remains a dark chapter in Ghanaian football history, and it is essential to remember the lives lost and work towards preventing a repeat. The Ghana Football Association must continue to enforce strict rules and punish those who engage in hooliganism to ensure that football remains a safe and enjoyable sport for all.