Another Death at Nyayo,Time to re-evaluate!

Sep 13, 2010

As gruesome and bizarre as it may have sounded at first, the death of 27 year old Nick Odoyo, who fell to his death from the upper tier of the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, while celebrating a goal during the Gor Mahia versus KCB match last Saturday has once again stirred up the old debate of fan safety in Kenyan stadia.

While this is the first such incident in the recent past in a KPL organized match, the death of an over enthusiastic fan in a half empty stadium was indeed starling.

Like in many parts of Africa, the question of safety sports stadiums has remained a pertinent issue in this country yet, regrettably, the relevant authorities have taken a surprisingly lukewarm stance.

Much as the slow return of football fans into the erstwhile forlorn arenas has been perceived as a fresh new beginning for the local game, its clearly evident that during these matches, fan safety is put to great test with the passage of every single spectator through the turnstile.

How else do you explain the common scenario of fans sneaking in all sort of contraband, like bottled (glass not plastic) alcoholics beverages and other consumable?

During the same match in question, a band of six very loud fans descended on the slabs seats right below where I was following the proceeding and immediately unleashed two bottles of very potent brands of whisk and tonic.

Its verbose to recount what this troop spent the entire evening after one too many swig of their cocktail. Without a doubt these are way below the acceptable standards.

But, Kenya Premier League Chief Executive Officer, Jack Oguda, maintains that fans have the cardinal responsibility of safeguarding their own safety inside the stadium during football matches.

“We have always advised fans in the past that they should never engage in actions that would put their own safety at risk,” Oguda told . “We have never had such an incidents in KPL matches but its unfortunate that the victim chose to over-indulge in his enthusiasm.”

However, Oguda was quick to convey heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family following the tragic incident. Oguda further elaborated that the matters relating to safety fall under Stadium Committee's mandate.

“We have already reported the matter to the Committee which we expected to convene a meeting in the coming days to look into the matter,” said Oguda.

On the issue of fans exceeding stadium capacity that has been observed in past matches featuring the national team, Harambee Stars, Oguda opines that stadiums are ideally not designed to accommodate 100% attendance. This measure he says alleviates risks that are likely to arise in the case of a stampede or spectator riot.

“These are practices that have been effectively enforced in most sports stadiums across the world,” he elaborated. “We expect our local fans and clubs to adhere to these measures.”

While it may sound preposterous to say that the safety standards at the Nyayo facility is a bit wanting, it has be recalled that a few such incidents have actually been recorded in the past in the stadium.

There is of course the poignant case of 15-year-old Collins Miyawa, who was trampled to death in a stampede during a World Cup qualifying match between Kenya and Morocco in June 2005.

Then just a few weeks ago, a fan was reportedly pricked on the stomach by the sharp spikes that separate the fans on the terraces and the VIP area as he attempted to cross over.

All said and done Odoyo's death was an unfortunate incident that dampened the otherwise carnival spirit in a match that Gor Mahia won 2-0. Clearly, there is need to reevaluate this issue with the objectivity that it merits. We must never allow a repeat of such tragedy.


Steve Omondi

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