Last September, local football governing body, Federation of Uganda Football Associations (Fufa), was castigated over packing Namboole to the rafters with football fans for the final 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Comoros.
There were more people in the stadium than the 40,000 for which it was built. At the time, police seemed interested in following the case.
Little is known of what became of that inquiry. This wasn’t the first time a Uganda Cranes’ game had numbers exceeding the ‘acceptable’ limit.
When Uganda hosted Rwanda (2003), South Africa (2004) and Kenya (2011), the same happened. Luckily, there was no catastrophe.
In all the above cases, there were inadequacies in crowd management. With local football regaining its face, crowds at league games have grown and the football clubs don’t seem to have effective measures for crowd control especially at entry points.
Recently, when KCCA FC hosted SC Villa and Onduparaka in the Azam Uganda Premier League at their Philip Omondi Stadium in Lugogo, the stadium was packed to the brink of disaster. The stadium was too small. Lugogo, according to KCCA, can only accommodate up to 5,600 fans.
After numerous complaints, KCCA improved greatly with their Caf Champions League game against Angola’s Primeiro de Agosto last month. The crowd left with fewer complaints.
Then, last Saturday, another club, Vipers, opened the gates to their new St Mary’s Stadium in Kitende on Entebbe Road. It was chaotic as Vipers hosted Platinum Stars in the Caf Confederation Cup.
The crowd was too big for the facility. Many fans had to stand while others mounted walls to watch the game. Some couldn’t get into the stadium even if they had tickets. When Vipers’ Milton Karisa scored, the temporary barrier between the VIP and ordinary sections was broken.
Our football managers have never devised means to manage or limit the number of people accessing stadia during matches.
This Saturday, KCCA will host African champions Mamelodi Sundowns at Philip Omondi Stadium. The crowd expected will definitely be bigger than when Villa and Onduparaka visited. KCCA FC, hoping to profit from having the proverbial home advantage, have resisted the call to move the game to the much bigger Namboole Stadium.
However, sticking to Lugogo calls for stringent measures for crowd control lest we join the list of countries that have had stadium stampedes. Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola recently, have had lives lost due to packed stadiums.