The ugly face of hooliganism reared its head on Kenyan football as a section of AFC Leopards fans attacked match referees and police officers in a Kenya Premier League Top Eight clash which their team had lost to Chemelil.
Referee Peter Waweru and his assistants are counting themselves lucky to have escaped without injury after a section of AFC Leopards fans, armed with bottles invaded the pitch, one minute before the end of the Wednesday night match at the Nyayo National Stadium.
Chemelil were leading 3-2. Repercussions have been swift.
The Sports Stadia Management Board has banned AFC Leopards from using Nyayo Stadium. The boardâ€™s acting chief officer Gabriel Komora said in a statement yesterday the ban takes effect immediately and indefinitely.
The AFC Leopards national executive committee condemned the violence and promised to take stern action on those found to have engaged in the ugly acts.
In a statement released by deputy chairman Walter Onyino, the club said the violence seen at the stadium were criminal and the law needed to take action. Leopards called on all their true fans to defend the tradition and pride of the club.
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Kenya Premier League, who are the organisers of the competition said they will carry out investigations and take action on AFC Leopards while Ingwe said poor officiating was one of the cause of the crowd trouble. KPL said there were 74 policemen deployed for the matchâ€™s security.
â€œWe will wait for the match report and will also carry out our own investigations before taking action,â€ said KPL Chief Executive Officer Jack Oguda.
Tension had been building from the onset of the game as Chemelil took a 2-0 lead through Daniel Mutahi. Leopards fans said the referee was biased against their side and even when the scores were 2-1 at half time after Noah Wafula had scored, they attacked the match officials as they headed to the dressing room.
Martin Ombalambala levelled the scores for Leopards in the second half, but fell back to a Tony Opondo strike with four minutes of play remaining. An unidentified burly fan scaled over the perimeter fence, and descended on the second referee Mike Mwangi literally chasing him off the pitch. Other fans joined in as mayhem ensued.
Helpless police officers who were openly outnumbered by the otherwise few fans could not contain the situation, the fan who had invaded the pitch was arrested but freed by a known Leopards security man as police officers watched.
As the situation got worse, police started lobbing tear gas canisters. The situation threatened to escalate when the stadium management inexplicably switched off the lights as fans attempted to flee the melee.
The referees and Chemelil Sugar players were held hostage inside the pitch for close to 30 minutes as Leopards hooligans reigned. They later harassed motorists on Aerodrome road as the chanted club slogans.
There were no injuries reported but there were some destruction of property at the stadium.
Condemned the violence
Onyino condemned the violence saying a section of Leopards fans were now getting the feeling they can do anything and get away with it. â€œSome of our fans are developing the feeling they can do anything and get away with it like what happened on Wednesday. We will not condone this,â€ said Onyino.
The chaos by Leopards fans was a culmination of growing tension at the den from the start of the season. On the opening day, the fans broke seats at Kasarani when Leopards drew one all with Chemelil.