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Over-flowing crowds now a crisis

Monday February 9 2009

Its a disaster in waiting at the Hope Centre ground as excited fans brought down this wall during a match between AFC Leopards and Nairobi City Stars in a premier league match .Photo/MOHAMMED AMIN

Its a disaster in waiting at the Hope Centre ground as excited fans brought down this wall during a match between AFC Leopards and Nairobi City Stars in a premier league match .Photo/MOHAMMED AMIN 

NAIROBI

Too many people attending a Kenyan Premier League match suddenly became serious crisis when Sunday’s encounter between re-admitted AFC Leopards and Nairobi City Stars had to be abandoned due to security fears.

World Hope Centre ground in Nairobi’s suburb of Kawangware could not hold an influx of fans, apparently attracted by the return to the Premiership of one of the biggest club names in Kenya.

Leopards, a dominant team over 10 years ago, are back in the league after two years absence following earlier relegation.

But when Leopards trailed 0-1 to City Stars who scored in the 55th minute, the surging crowds glued to the weak timber and chain-link perimeter fencing forced it to collapse sending spectators spilling onto the pitch. The referee hand to abandon the game.

Club’s huge following

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The renamed Nairobi City Stars, as World Hope FC, had always enjoyed the bliss of their small and unpretentious ground in Kawangware, witnessing no rampaging crowds ever in the past.

But it was always going to be doubtful whether they could cope with a huge following of Leopards, the club which in its heydays had all local stadiums bursting at the seams in most of the games they played.

Even if it was only on Leopards’ return to the KPL after two seasons in the lower divisions, their followers were too many and perhaps too robust for the Hope Centre facility to deal with.

The modest perimeter fencing gave in to a leaning multitude in the 60th minute after City Stars had scored five minute earlier. Ugandan import Jimmy Bageye, formerly of Gor Mahia, cleverly beat Leopards ‘keeper Charles Onyango.

When the highly charged crowd pushed over the touchlines, referee Amos Wanjala from Kitale discontinued the match, which is likely to be replayed at a bigger stadium at a later date.

Provide enough security

City Stars’ chairman Charles Macharia said it was unfortunate that Leopards fans were perhaps too exuberant.

“We have always played our matches here, even against other big clubs such as Gor Mahia, and there has never been any trouble,” Macharia said.

He disagreed with Leopards chairman Alex ole Magero’s charge that City Stars had not provided enough security.

Macharia said in the past the ground was manned by less then the 12 policemen whom they had deployed for the match on Sunday.

“Our ground is small but all previous visiting team fans have always conducted themselves well here,” Macharia said.

As World Hope, City Stars have always been sponsored by Christian organisations and the current benefactor is the missionary group Ambassadors in Sport.

Earlier, Leopards had dominated large sections of the match narrowly failing to score when Zimbabwe import Tafadzwa Dondo hit the crossbar with City Stars goalie Victor Omondi well beaten.

In other matches on Sunday, Thika United enjoyed the usual home comfort and began their season with the highest win of the opening weekend, whipping against Bandari 3-0.

Chemelil Sugar shut out Western Stima 1-0 at Chemelil and champions Mathare United could not find their shooting form as they were hold to a 0-0 draw by Sher Karuturi at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. (kpl.co.ke)

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