Hundreds of people in Kumasi, including members of the national Rugby team led by the Ghana Rugby Football Union (GRFU) president, Herbert Mensah, embarked on a two-hour brisk walk through some principal streets in the metropolis to mark the 16th anniversary of the May 9 football tragedy which claimed 127 lives at the Accra Sports Stadium in 2001.
Last Saturday’s event was a spontaneous gathering of people, mainly football fans who either witnessed the tragedy or lost a relation in the world’s second biggest football disaster, joined the march along the route until the final convocation at the Kumasi Central Mosque.
Mr Mensah, who was chairman of Kumasi Asante Kotoko when the stampede occurred at the North Wing of the Accra Stadium during a crunch league game with archrivals Accra Hearts of Oak, rallied for support to campaign against violence at football matches. The match was also to drum home strongly among football fans to know that they were ‘first and foremost brothers and sisters’.
He said the annual remembrance day was a sign of respect for the departed and their families while working hard to support those they have left behind.
Mr Mensah, who was personally involved in the rescue efforts during the stampede, made a pledge to mark the day for as long as he was alive as his personal contribution to creating awareness and for “respecting” the departed.
Sixteen years ago, violence erupted at the Accra Stadium during a midweek clash between Hearts and Kotoko moments after Ishmael Addo scored a last minute match-winner to give Hearts a 2-1 victory.
Irate Kotoko fans at the North Wing, displeased at perceived bias by the match officials, expressed their anger at the decision of the referee to allow the goal by throwing missiles onto the pitch.
The police reacted by firing several canisters of tear gas into the stands leading to stampede as the fans attempted to escape through a narrow exit, claiming a total of 127 lives.
Since that ill-fated incident, Mr Mensah has made it a personal crusade to commemorate the event in Accra and Kumasi by either leading peaceful walk by fans of the two sides or making donations to survivors of the stampede and relatives of victims of the tragedy.
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