The National University of Lesotho (NUL) was certainly not the place to be last Sunday after the military ran amok, assaulting fans who were insulting them and their command during the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF)/Rovers tie that was being played at Machabeng Ground.
The beating resulted in the premier league match being abandoned midway—a sad development for our football which is fighting to earn the respect of the nation and sponsors alike.
We are told things started going wrong the moment the LDF team arrived at the university. The Rovers supporters, we are further told, started singing derogatory songs about the LDF hierarchy.
This is said to have angered soldiers who had come to support their team, resulting in the assault, which saw some of the victims being taken to hospital for treatment.
I have been to many (NUL) Rovers matches and I must say their supporters’ behavior leaves a lot to be desired.
If they are not insulting their opponents, they are invading the pitch when their side scores, especially if the Dynamites are playing on campus.
I was not at Sunday’s match, but from what I am told, I am not surprised this violence happened because sooner, rather than later, someone was going to take offense at the supporters’ rowdy behaviour.
Section 18.104.22.168 of the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) rules and regulations says insulting or assaulting players, club officials, match officials or any other person at a match is an act of misconduct, and the team whose supporters commit these crimes, would face disciplinary action if reported to the soccer authorities.
This means Rovers should be held responsible for the violence, and so should LDF.
Yet what is of great concern is the violence itself. True, Rovers supporters can be very annoying, but this does not justify beating them up to a pulp the way the military did last Sunday. LDF Football Club could have used other means to display their unhappiness at the way Rovers supporters were treating them and the military command, such as walking out of the match.
The media has been encouraging people to go out in numbers to support local football because that is one way of making sure the sport grows. Having many fans at matches can attract sponsors, and with funding, our game can turn professional for the good of the players and the nation at large.
But if such violence is taking place at our stadia, and if fans are using vulgar language at these matches, why should people then come to the matches to be insulted or assaulted?
Sport is supposed to unite people no matter their religion or political affiliation, and present us with an opportunity to meet and have a good time after a tough working week.
But with certain teams in our premier league, this is virtually impossible. The military could have been heavy-handed in their action last Sunday, but at the same time, we have to ask ourselves if Rovers fans were completely blameless in the violence, and sadly, the answer is no.
Hopefully, our football authorities are going to look at this case objectively because if they don’t come up with a solution, I am afraid the same violence will happen again, and this time, probably with even tragic results.