MY “GOR vs AFC” EXPERIENCE (THE STAMPEDE)
I understand what it’s like to be a cow. More precisely, a cow herded into a crush for spraying. Only instead of sprayed hides, it was rain-soaked clothing pressed up against me. This understanding will certainly be valuable when depicting crowd scenes in later issues of Emergency.
Nonetheless, the whole atmosphere on that rainy evening of the 23rd October was very upbeat! Save for the occasional elbow to the back, at no time did I feel at risk while filing into the narrow entrance of Nyayo Stadium with a revolving bar at its end. The pushing, it seemed, was the natural consequence of all the excitement and positive energy about us. I do however remember thinking about an article I’d read after the ‘love-parade’ stampede in Germany. It advised: “If caught in a stampede, move with the flow of the crowd… until you can find something solid to hide behind or under.”
Fortunately for me, I got through the revolving bars and into the stadium without incident. Sadly, seven Kenyans weren’t so lucky.
I had always wanted to experience a KPL match live ever since Kenyan soccer received a facelift and began attracting fans once again. Now I had the opportunity to satisfy this curiosity.
A “GorMahia Vs AFC Leopards” match shouldn’t have attracted the sort of attention it did given that AFC is so lowly ranked and neither team is at the top of the standings (I’m just saying ). In fact, the excitement about the match had less to do with standings and more to do with rivalry. And this rivalry is what had made me so curious.
I received my money’s worth. Having attended the game with my friend Terrence and a classmate of his, both ardent AFC supporters, I felt obliged to cheer AFC on.
AFC fans are some of the most entertaining Kenyans I have been privileged to encounter! Their regalia was impressive, and their dancing even more so. Their songs, most of which I couldn’t understand, are I suspect better left un-translated. Judging from the hand gestures that accompanied the singing, some FIFIA-ban-worthy slurs were in use. Anyhow, without making excuses, I believe it’s asking too much of inebriated soccer fans to demand high levels of politeness of them.
When the match was inexplicably halted by the referee, a rumour spread that some fans had been killed in a stampede when trying to get in. Upon seeing the missed calls from friends and family toward the end of the game, I understood that for this particular game the results would be irrelevant.
The Prime-Minister has done-well to personally address the tragedy of the 23rd October, because it would be double-tragedy if the magic of live games were lost altogether.