May 9 Remembered in Kumasi

Herbert MensahA series of activities and events have taken place in Kumasi, the Ashanti Regional capital in remembrance of the Accra stadium disaster that claimed the lives of an estimated 126 fans during a football match between Accra Hearts Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko in 2001. This year will mark the 11th remembrance of a dark and bloody tragedy in Ghana.

The annual events and activities to remember this sad day in our history in Ghana football is mainly spearheaded by Mr. Herbert Mensah, Kotoko Chairman at the time of the tragedy who has over the years organized special remembrance events and visits to families of the deceased fans.

This year, the activities started earlier than may 9 because, according to organizers, mid-week will not allow some workers to participate in the planned activities.

In a statement issued in Accra prior to the start of activities in Kumasi Mr. Mensah said, “May 9th is not just about remembering the deceased but more about remembering the lessons we as a Nation learned from the biggest football stadium disaster in history.”

Organizers also say the focus of this year¹s remembrance is on the children of those who lost their lives. Apart from the May 9 walk which started from the Kumasi cultural center through some principal streets of Kumasi on Saturday MAY 5 and which received massive participation from the general public, there was also a football match among former players and other notable sports personalities later to mark the day on the same day.

Among the notable personalities who took part in the WALK included main organizer Mr. Herbert Mensah, Alhaji Hearts, a patron of Accra Hearts of Oak football club, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh MP for Mahyia as well as many sports journalists, commentators and scores of football fans.

The events in Kumasi also coincide with the 62nd birthday of Utumfuor Osei Tutu II. Life patron of Kumasi Asante Kotoko FC and will see a presentation of various items to families of the stadium disaster victims, a church service and a luncheon at the Utumfuor¹s palace on Sunday.

In the year 2001, Ghanaians experienced the greatest football tragedy in the history of the game when the two rival teams met in Accra for a league match.

At the end of that historic match that ended in a 2 ­ 1 win for Hearts police fired tear gas into the stand where Kotoko supporters rioted because of perceived unfair refereeing. Because the exit gates were locked and unmanned hundreds of supporters who tried to escape the burning pain of the tear gas were crushed to death.

A commission of inquiry into the tragedy recommended that four policemen be tried for murder. All four were found to be not guilty of murder, as the deaths were not caused by the tear gas, but by asphyxiation. In an effort to make sure that these lessons are never forgotten, Mr. Mensah initiated the creation of various communiqués.

These include a Facebook Page, a Blog and the creation of a first draft e-Book on the occasion.

“Remembering May 9th and the lessons learned from this tragedy should continue for generations to come. Such a remembrance should remind all parties involved to not repeat the mistakes made on a day when 126 young lives were ended so abruptly and horrendously,” he continued to say.

The Facebook Page titled “May 9th Remembered” is accessible to all Facebook account holders and contains numerous links to references about the disaster on the Internet. It will also serve as forum for discussion of issues relating to crowd behavior and control, event management and administration, security, football administration and corruption to name a few.

Other initiatives that have been announced during May 9th Remembrance events organised by Mr. Mensah for 2012 include a Blog and the release of a first version of an e-Book on the disaster.

Story by A.S Denis/xfm95.1/Accra-Ghana

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