The dark side of the Azam Uganda Premier League reared its ugly head on Saturday in the Vipers versus SC Villa encounter at Kitende.
Villa fans, protesting what they felt was biased officiation by referee Alex Muhabi, went on rampage painting the country’s biggest competition in bad light.
They fought, vandalized the stadium, hurled bottles of urine and used vulgar language as their side was beaten by the hosts at St Mary’s stadium Kitende.
Villa’s players were equally unruly. They almost beat up the referee. On a number of occasions it took the intervention of officials to cool them down.
The Jogoos’ outburst evoked memories of bloody battles that were common in 1990s. A recent almost similar outburst was in 2013 interestingly also between Villa and Vipers.
Fans of the two clubs had running battles in Buikwe town. Images are still fresh of a knife wielding Vipers fan Fred Kitaka.
It took the intervention of shooting and tear gassing police to calm the situation.
On Saturday it was a joint police and army intervention that restored normalcy long after the match.
Unlike previous violence that happened on public facilities, Saturday’s events occurred on private property.
Vipers Patron Lawrence Mulindwa, who is also a former FUFA president, took sports investment to unprecedented heights when he individually put up a modern 25,000 seater stadium.
He could have chosen to sink the money elsewhere. A shopping mall or school would probably have assured him more money. But he chose to invest in football.
So, is such violence the best way of rewarding such investors?
Then what message is also being sent out to other potential financiers who might be nursing similar ideas?
That the match was live on television and therefore watched by probably millions, further says volumes of the bad PR.
I am sure Azam TV must have also been in pain broadcasting.
Fan grooming or building on the football audience is a key aspect of the game today.
Mulindwa is smartly doing this by interesting a huge section of his Kitende students to attend matches.
The weekend game was another of such matches where hundreds of students were in attendance.
Just imagine the impression that the fracas left on these teenagers.
Would it be surprising if they asked their parents to consider diverting their entry fees to more sane extra-curricular activities?
It would be interesting to know what measures FUFA has taken on the match officials.
In 2013 Vipers fan rioting Kitaka, whose footage was clearly captured, was arrested and jailed. Today he is one of the most disciplined fans.
Why shouldn’t the same also happen to the perpetrators of Saturday’s violence given that there is clear pictorial evidence?
Villa should on its part incur the cost of the damage caused on top of a fine.
Then, if that is not enough, then it is probably time Villa matches were played behind closed doors.