Vipers FC’s decision to ban some Villa fans from accessing matches at their St Mary’s stadium Kitende is against the spirit of football.
In the recent past, Villa versus Vipers games have been closely contested and have created a reputation as must-watch fixtures.
Incidentally, the country witnessed this fixture’s first acts of hooliganism in November 2013 when the match got abandoned in Buikwe, Vipers’ then home ground, which left several Villa fans bloodied and some disfigured.
Subsequent investigations by Fufa’s disciplinary committee faulted Vipers for instigating the violence and the stadium was banned from hosting Vipers’ matches for some months.
Since then, there have been sporadic cases of violence but it reached a head early this season during a league game at St Mary’s stadium in Kitende. Ironically, the match ended peacefully, albeit controversially, but the vandal actions of some angry individuals, whom Fufa’s disciplinary panel associated with Villa, had the Jogoos bear more punishment when the club was fined Sh 1m and had two more points deducted.
In the interest of football, I convinced my team not to contest the sanction. However, events from the May 27 goalless first leg of the Uganda Cup semi-final at Wankulukuku leave a bitter taste and matters have not been helped by Vipers’ ill-advised attempt to portray Villa as a club of hooligans.
That particular match was briefly halted due to violence instigated when Miguel da Costa, the Vipers coach, waved the middle finger in the direction of charged Villa fans, who were already aggrieved by the level of officiating. Any sane person would have envisaged a chaotic outcome. There were several other bust-ups in the game and at the end of the day, the match left a lot to be desired, especially on the security front.
Ironically, Villa disproved critics in April when it hosted Vipers at Masaka recreation grounds and the match, which was attended by more than 10,000 fans, passed off smoothly in spite of the provocations from some Vipers players.
The major difference between the two situations is that Villa was fully in charge of security in Masaka. So, it came as a shock on June 1 when I learnt through social media that Vipers declared 17 ‘Villa’ fans as persona non grata for the return leg at Kitende.
Vipers has positioned itself as the accuser, prosecutor, witness, judge and executor of the judgment. On the face of it alone, this decision has no legal basis because section 61 and 62 of the Fifa statute places such power in the hand of the national association (Fufa), after consultation with the respective teams. Put simply, Vipers have no authority to determine who watches their games.
It is the mandate of Fufa, through the disciplinary panel, to investigate the case and in a situation where time is limited; it can impose suspensions pending completion of investigations.
But beyond the effectiveness of Vipers’ declaration is a veiled attempt at tarnishing Villa’s name.
Ordinarily, Vipers should have had the courtesy to communicate or compare notes with the Villa executive on the various individuals they deem dangerous, but to portray Villa as a club of hooligans is not only unfortunate but borders on blackmail to soil the club’s image in society, particularly in the eyes of sponsors.
Villa doesn’t condone hooliganism and our fans don’t go to matches to fight. In fact, my executive recently identified four hooligans and forwarded their names to Fufa to investigate. Unfortunately, we are yet to get a response.
Fufa, through its disciplinary panel, has to come out to not only show that it is in control, but also show its objectivity and fairness. In conclusion, Vipers’ actions have been allowed to stand due to Fufa’s reluctance to do its job. It could be a result of fear within the Fufa hierarchy.
This has set a precedent and no one will have the moral authority to challenge Villa, or any other club, if it also bans Vipers supporters from attending its home games yet both sides have greatly invested in the game. Amidst all this; where is Fufa to guide on the rules and regulations?
The author is SC Villa president.