Football hooliganism: Vietnam vs. Europe

HooliganismTwo major incidents that occurred 6,000 miles apart last weekend highlighted the fact that football hooliganism and stadium safety are still as evident as ever in the Beautiful Game.

They were contrasting events in terms of importance and numbers of people in both stadiums but none the less, the frightened faces tell a very familiar story.

While Millwall fans, who have a notorious reputation in English football, fought among themselves in the worst violence witnessed at the new Wembley Stadium in London as they lost their FA Cup semi-final to Wigan, in Vinh City thousands of Sông Lam Nghệ An (SLNA) fans panicked as Vinh Stadium started crumbling during the V-League clash against Saigon XT.

Footage from Nghệ An Province revealed that fans ran for safety as they climbed around the ground trying to exit the stadium as seats started to break away and some crush barriers could be clearly seen to be damaged and decaying in the old stadium.

The fact that the ground is only regulated to hold 10,000 didn’t stop a few thousand extra fans sneaking in, standing on roofs or trying any way they could to get in to watch the big game against one of the league’s best sides and National Cup holders Sài Gòn.

Sông Lam are one of the best supported sides in the country and have been pretty successful in the last few years but their fans have a bit of a reputation for trouble.

According to a football source, Sông Lam are the worst behaved fans in the country and caused trouble the last time they were in Hồ Chí Minh City when they met Sài Gòn XT inside and outside Thống Nhất Stadium.

More than 3,000 Sông Lam flocked to Hồ Chí Minh City a year ago to supposedly cheer on their side.

But around 200 fans ran amok in downtown Sài Gòn, a shocking scene to most Saigonese, with most of the city’s ten million residents not even knowing there was a football game taking place.

But the Sông Lam mob was not content with public disorder outside the ground; they were intent on causing bother inside Thống Nhất ground.

Ten minutes into the second half they repeatedly shouted out “Referee fixes the match,” in protest to Phùng Đình Dũng’s decision not to award their side a penalty kick in the 57th minute.

The SLNA hooligans then collected newspapers and set fire to them to continue their objections, sending the security force at the stadium to hurriedly extinguish the fire.

The extremist fans then continued to riot in the stands, and then refused to leave the ground as they set fire to one of the stadium’s stands before being attacked by water cannons fired by police before order was resumed.

Now, Vietnamese and Asian people in general look to England and the Premier League for football greatness and somewhere which leads by example with good reason.

Ground safety in Britain became the benchmark for world football after the Taylor Report was released in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 when 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives due to inadequate safety measures, black market tickets resulting in too many fans being penned into the ground and inept policing and stewarding at a crumbling ground which wasn’t fit to hold such a high-profile clash with the victims being crushed to death.

Many said it was tragedy waiting to happen in the football world.

Remember this was only four years after the Heysel disaster, involving Liverpool and Juventus in the European Cup Final, which claimed the lives of 39 fans.

British stadia are now all-seated and thankfully there have been very few incidents of note since.

When I saw the footage from Vinh Stadium it brought back memories of that FA Cup semi-final between NottinghamForest and Liverpool at Hillsborough and that horrible day when everyone in Britain was affected by the needless deaths of supporters.

Men, women, children going out to follow their football team by day should come home to their families at night.

I bet there were a few worried people in Vinh City on Sunday night when they heard about the incident.

Maybe it is time for the authorities to look into the quality of V-League stadiums in the wake of Sunday’s incident which although led to some people being carried out the ground in stretchers, fortunately didn’t result in any casualties.

However, as the Hillsborough and Heysel disasters have proved, it can happen at any time.

Let us hope Việt Nam doesn’t have to suffer the losses like Liverpool and Juventus did in the 1980s.




One thought on “Football hooliganism: Vietnam vs. Europe

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