Herbert Mensah: Let Us Always Remember May 9, 2001
Former Kumasi Asante Kotoko boss, Herbert Mensah has called on Ghanaians never to forget those who perished during the May 9, 2001 stadium disaster at the Accra Sports Stadium.
Mr. Mensah said, “that painful spectre will forever remain on my mind and I know those martyrs are resting peacefully in the bosom of the Lord.”
On May 9 2001, 127 soccer fans lost their lives when they were stampeded into a steep stairwell when police fired teargas to stop rowdy fans.
In a message on the occasion of the 9th anniversary of the May 9 disaster Mensah said: “The families, friends and associates of all those who lost their lives continue to endure the pain of losing their loved ones, many of whom were breadwinners for their families.
“For months after that incident I had nightmares remembering the terrible sight when some of us went to the stairwell to help rescue trapped supporters.
“We all owe it a duty to those who lost their lives to ensure that never again will such a horrible disaster befall Ghana,” Mensah said.
The former Kotoko CEO a lot of effort had gone into ensuring stadium safety including the construction of four new stadia in Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi and Tamale but a lot more needs to be done across other league centres where even inner perimeter fencing is non-existent and matches are teleguided by supporters who threaten match officials and visiting teams.
“Football is a highly emotional game and while we call on supporters to always exercise restraint our national authorities need to liaise with the various district authorities to work at ensuring that soccer pitches and stadia across the country are built to required standards to ensure safety. It is an expensive venture that we cannot compromise on. We owe it to those who lost their lives on May 9, 2001 to ensure that every stadium is safe.
“Our referees also need to play their role. There has been enormous improvement in match officiating since May 9, 2001 but there are still lapses in refereeing and all relevant authorities need to pool resources to help improve officiating. That will improve the standard and quality of the game and ensure that football fans have confidence in the game. That will then ease the violent emotion that sometimes builds up during soccer games,” Mensah noted.
Mensah also called for better medical facilities at stadiums saying, “it is an eyesore to see Good Samaritans carry collapsed fans in bad postures during soccer games. More medical facilities need to be provided at matches so injured or dehydrated fans can be carried on stretchers. Soccer fans can also be given First Aid advice before matches and campaigns can be done through the media to help save lives.
The former Kotoko boss has been making donations to families of those who lost their lives and today victims’ families in Kumasi will be receiving presentations of provision and cash from his representatives at a ceremony in Kumasi.
Mensah who is out of the country on official assignment yesterday donated several bags of rice and soft drinks to victims’ families in Accra.
At a ceremony at the forecourts of the Ohene Djan Stadium, Alhaji Suleman Braimah, aka Alhaji Hearts who donated the package on behalf of Mr Mensah said the former Kotoko boss had never forgotten the terrible pain of the disaster and will always ensure that he will offer whatever support he can during such anniversaries.
Receiving the package on behalf of the victims, Deputy Sports Minister, Nii Nortey Duah thanked Mensah for his support over the years and said his outfit was not unaware of his commitment to eulogising the victims of May 9. “We have been communicating with Mr. Mensah and will make sure that the annual celebration is given better recognition than previously,” he said.
Relatives of victims who were present called on the government to increase the annual sponsorship given for the education of children of the victims, as it was woefully inadequate.
Young Hawa Asare who accompanied her mother, Regina Dodoo to the memorial event said the cost of their education was so high and the ‘GH¢ 230.00 paid annually was way below the fees they have pay annually.
Mrs Leticia Sackey, a victim’s wife called on government to also support wards who wish to veer into vocational training as not all the children are lucky to do well in mainstream schools. Currently the May 9 fund does not support vocational training.
Also hear Herbert’s feelings on audio here.
Football, they say, transcends all barriers. Football units a people. The progress of a nation depends on it’s vibrant youth. Most of the peolple who lost their lives on May 9th 2001 fall within the “youth” bracket and it was all in the name of football or better yet, for the love of the game.
Let’s use this remembrance day of our fallen colleagues (as football lovers) to call for the unity of the youth of Ghana wherever they may be. Let us have this one moment when politics would be shoved out the door. Let’s give our fallen brothers hope in their peaceful sleep that thier famiies will have a better opportunity to live a better life in a better Ghana where the true state of the economy will not be concealed behind a curtain of political talks and innuendos and that a better economic plan for Ghana will ensure that should we alive today pass on, our families will only but miss our presence and yet not suffer economic hardships.