Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the May 9th disaster, the tragic incident that claimed the lives of 126 football fans who went to the Accra Sports Stadium to watch a Ghana Premier League match between archrivals Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko and never returned home.
Since then, Ghanaians have consistently mourned the departed every year.
The match was played on a Wednesday night, and officials were anticipating crowd disturbances and had taken extra security measures. Hearts of Oak scored two late goals, resulting in disappointed Kotoko fans throwing plastic seats and bottles onto the pitch.
The police responded by firing tear gas into the crowd. Panic and a stampede ensued, resulting in 116 deaths due to compressive asphyxia and 10 fans dying from trauma.
Despite the memorial and the constant reminders, hooliganism continues to rear its ugly head in Ghanaian football, resulting in casualties in recent seasons.
Here’s a look at the five incidents that drew wide condemnation:
Assistant referee dies after being beaten by fans in 2014
The official Kwame Andoh Kyei suffered serious injuries after he was attacked while running the line during a lower-tier match between Gold Stars and Naa Joe United in Bordie on 2nd March. He died days after the incident as a result of the injuries.
Kyei was only 21.
The GFA in a statement said, “He was regarded as one of the association’s most promising up-and-coming referees and was highly respected by his peers.”
Disgruntled Hearts of Oak fans flood pitch with objects in 2016
The top liner between Hearts of Oak and Wa All Stars (now known as Legon Cities) was marred by hooliganism.
All Stars completely ripped Hearts of Oak apart, winning 3-1. Fans were angry with some decisions and disturbed the game by throwing objects onto the field. Referee and his assistants were pelted with bottles and sachet water.
Hearts of Oak were hit with a three-match home ban and fined GH¢ 12,000.
Referee Theresa Bremansu assaulted in 2019
Ghanaians were left absolutely stunned when reports emerged that a female referee had been assaulted during a women’s league match.
Bremansu, one of Ghana’s top female referees, was beaten mercilessly by Prison Ladies FC players and sympathisers because she did not add additional time when the 90 minutes elapsed during a match against Ampem Darkoa Ladies. The latter won the match, and Bremansu was saved by the security personnel present.
Prison Ladies were fined GH¢5,000 by the GFA.
Kotoko supporter shot in the eye in 2020
In 2020, crowd violence after Asante Kotoko’s 1-0 defeat to Berekum Chelsea in a league match led to a fan, Augustine Oppong, being shot in the eye.
Fans were seen in various video clips hurling missiles onto the Baba Yara Stadium pitch to show their displeasure at a refereeing decision taken by centre referee, Charles Bulu.
This led to more crowd trouble after the match in which a Kotoko fan was hit with a rubber bullet after being shot by a police officer.
Kotoko were handed a temporary ban by the GFA, and the fan, fortunately, underwent a successful surgery.
Samartex FC officials, players beaten by irate Skyy FC fans in 2022
Officials and players of FC Samartex 1996 were brutally attacked by the Skyy FC supporters in a Division One League match in Daboase. The game ended 1-1, and that angered the fans, who took matters into their own hands, beating up some players and officials of Samartex.
Samartex filed a report with the police, but no arrest was made, while the GFA handed an immediate home ban to Skyy, which ultimately cost them promotion to the top flight.
Hooliganism in football is a problem that continues to plague the sport globally, and Ghana is not immune to it. The May 9th disaster remains a dark chapter in Ghanaian football history, and it is essential to remember the lives lost and work towards preventing a repeat.