JOHANNESBURG – I disagree with former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly on his widely-quoted line that dismisses the notion of football being a matter of life and death, arguing that it’s “much, much more important than that”.
Such statements romanticise doing stupid things in the name of football by heightening the importance of what is just a game, at the end of the day.
Nothing can be more important than life. But because of football's power, it has created the notion that Shankly’s statement is true. People lose their lives at stadiums and the game continues, literally - as was the case at FNB Stadium last year during the Carling Black Label Cup between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. The match went ahead despite the deaths of two people being confirmed early in the first half.
Former Sport and Recreation Minister, Thulas Nxesi, initiated a commission of inquiry on the incident. But on Friday the ministry, now headed by Thokozile Xasa, filed a notice of intention to withdraw the inquiry.
“The department has noted with concern the lack of co-operation necessary to execute the mandate of such an inquiry by key role players,” the statement from the department reads.
“As inquiries of this nature relies largely on the co-operation of the affected stakeholders, and there has been active opposition on this one, the department found it necessary to withdraw the current notice and to review other available legal instruments and to vigorously pursue the matter further through other law enforcement agencies to ensure that the interests of justice for the families of the deceased are served, as well as to ensure that the relevant laws of the Republic are respected and observed.”
The fact no-one would co-operate in a matter that seeks to find out how two people lost their lives is downright disgusting. Imagine how the family members must feel in their attempts to find the truth and closure on the matter.
People should be bending over backwards to assist in the finalisation of the matter so that such doesn’t happen again. It’s bad enough that it was the third time people lost their lives at a Soweto Derby.
We should do everything in our power to ensure such incidents don’t happen.
This ministerial inquiry was going to run concurrently with the criminal investigation initiated by the police after the stampede. The argument from Stadium Management chief executive Jacques Grobbelaar is that there shouldn’t be two investigations, which is why they challenged the ministerial committee inquiry in court.
That’s hogwash. Any action that seeks to get to the bottom of what happened on that fateful afternoon should be welcomed instead of hiding behind technicalities and arguing that the timing is bad.