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KICK OFF: Cage that thug

ON Wednesday, the football world witnessed the most embarrassing or rather obscene scenes in the most popular sport.

During a mid-week MTN/FAZ Super League match between Green Buffaloes and Nkana FC at Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka with the Kitwe side trailing 0-3, a disgruntled thug masquerading as a soccer fan breached the pitch perimeter and effortlessly walked to the Nkana technical bench and assaulted head coach Manfred Chabinga with a chair.

With no security in sight, Chabinga did what any defenceless person would do under the circumstances – to defends himself. He nicely punched the hell out of his aggressor. And in solidarity with their boss, Chabinga’s assistants rose to his defence.

All this was happening while two police officers slowly walked to the scene like nothing serious was happening. After being overpowered, the thug retreated. But what was appalling to see was that while Chabinga received marching orders, a police officer, instead of arresting that thug and take him to the nearest police station, he nicely escorted him out of the pitch. How shameful!

Firstly, Chabinga was 0-3 down, hurting, whilst trying to figure out how to turn things around. Then someone who is supposed to be in the terraces cheering, encroaches in the technical area and attacks the coach, how?

Where was security when this guy was jumping the wire perimeter on to the pitch, and accessed the technical areas which are exclusively reserved for coaches, substitutes and match officials?

Green Buffaloes must be punished for failing to provide adequate security as the host team.

Chabinga was not fighting his opposite number, Bilton Musonda and his assistants, nor was he fighting players and referees. He was fighting an intruder who did not just sneak into the technical area but hit him with a chair, according to the narration by Nkana medics. Certainly, he could not stand hands akimbo while that thug feasted on him because he is a coach, no! He has the right to defend himself because there were no police to protect him.

We see in Europe how match stewards and police swiftly deal with pitch invaders, a total contrast from what we saw on Wednesday. Chabinga’s life was in danger at that moment. That thug could have been armed, and if he were armed with any weapon, it could have been more than a slap or a punch. The attacker could have stabbed Chabinga and the story could be different. And those blaming the coach for opting to defend himself would be busy with all sorts of prayers and wishes.

Remember, we are living in rampant betting times; someone could have easily lost his ticket and could do anything in frustration. It’s not normal for a soccer fan who is just disappointed about the outcome or proceedings of the match to march into the technical area and hit a coach with a chair on the head.

Remember also that on 2nd July 1994 Humberto Munoz, the person that killed Colombian defender Andreas Escobar who scored an own goal in his team’s 1-2 loss to the USA in the World Cup leading to their elimination, was believed to have been sent by the betting union or drug traffickers who staked a lot of money in bets.

So, you see, anything is possible in football, even death. And that chair could have left serious scars on Chabinga’s head or even death; because at that point adrenalin was high, the pressure was too much and human bodies react differently in such situations.

We should not downplay such incidents like Escobar downplayed death threats he received until 12 bullets hit his body…the rest is history.

I am not going into extremes here, but I have seen how emotional people are becoming because of football betting, and I am not certainly stating that the Nkoloma incident is a result of betting. But who knows what could have triggered that?

Anyway, we need to protect our game from thuggery and hooliganism. We can stamp out that stupidity completely by harshly punishing that character now. No coach deserves to go through what Chabinga went through on Wednesday.

If nothing happens, today it’s Chabinga, tomorrow it will be another coach suffering at the hands of a disgruntled supporter. No supporter [s] is/are so special to destroy the beautiful game. If you can’t accept a result, stop watching football and join politics. Football is not for the faint-hearted, it’s for sports men and women.

After all is said and done, cage that thug, he surely can be identified. Let’s root out barbarism in our game. Enough is enough! He is not just tarnishing the name of the game, Nkana’s image is at stake too. That’s why everyone who is found wanting must be punished severely.

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