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Savage Spectators: The dark side of the game

Savage Spectators:  The dark side of the game
A sportsperson’s profession is one of the most difficult professions there is with them having to take extensive care of their bodies and their mental stance. While it may look like a cake walk for the athletes performing their respective skills, it is in fact not. Every move they perform takes years of practice to perfect but sometimes it’s not possible to overcome the odds even after giving it their best shot. This is what the audience of sporting spectacles has to understand.  Yes, it’s fair to get frustrated when you spend a sizeable amount of money and see your team lose but acting like <g data-gr-id="138">wild</g>, uncultured hooligans <g data-gr-id="136">is</g> never ever the answer. 

The spectators have to understand that the frustration they are feeling is nothing compared to what the players must be feeling while facing defeat in front of a large crowd. The untoward incident that happened in Cuttack during the second T20 match between India and South Africa is a prime example of how uncouth, savage and uncultured sports fans can be. When one started throwing a bottle in the field the rest followed suit. It’s like a herd mentality. These people were the same people who were cheering their hearts out when India won the Test series in Sri Lanka and just in a space of one and a half months all the adulation and respect disintegrated for the team and the spoilt child like behaviour started. The Cuttack incident painted a rather unfavourable picture for the country as well as the people in it which is a crying shame. Though the Cuttack debacle will be considered a rather bleak day for the sport, it is merely scratching the surface of a much-maligned list of incidents where spectators turned villains and disrupted a sports event.

Cricket
The <g data-gr-id="104">Premdasa</g> incident (2015): The most recent incident of a cricket match turning into a battlefield before the Cuttack incident was the third ODI between Asian superpowers Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Colombo. The violence that started in the stands soon spilled onto the field. The hosts were struggling at 158/7 in reply to a massive 316 run chase when the supporters started pelting stones at each other in the stands. It was not long before stones were being hurled into the ground as well. The match had to be suspended and the players were escorted to the dressing rooms. It was only after twenty minutes that the match resumed and the spectators who were sitting in those two stands were ejected from the ground. No players were hurt in the incident, but it did project a bad light on the entire fan base due to the idiotic behaviour of a select few.

The WACA incident (2010): In 2010 when in the final ODI match between Pakistan and Australia at the WACA ground, an inebriated Australian fan, David James Fraser, evaded the security and ran onto the field. Before anyone knew what was happening, he reached Pakistan’s Khalid Latif and tackled him. He was then detained by the security and dragged off the field. The incident went on to show how vulnerable players are on the field and also how flimsy the security had been on that day. Just about anything could have happened but thank god it didn’t. Fraser was fined $ 9000 and banned from WACA for life.

The Terrorist incident (2009): While this may not be a direct spectator-related incident this warrants a place in this list for the sheer magnitude of the impact that outside forces had on the game. In 2009, a group of at least 12 <g data-gr-id="100">gun men</g> attacked the bus of the visiting Sri Lankan team in Pakistan and opened fired on it which resulted in the death of 2 civilians and two policemen. Six Sri Lankan players also suffered injuries.

The Canada incident (1997): In an India-Pakistan match at Canada, Pakistan cricketer, Inzamam-ul-Haq was fielding near the boundary and an Indian fan was constantly blaring through the microphone and repeatedly calling him a potato which resulted in Inzamam snapping and entering the gallery with a swinging bat before being restrained by the security. Thankfully no one was hurt.

The Eden Gardens incident (1996): Perhaps the most well-known incident of a crowd gone rogue in cricketing history happened in Eden Gardens at the 1996 World Cup <g data-gr-id="120">Semi final</g> match between hosts India and Sri Lanka. India was on the verge of losing the match when suddenly bottles and fruits were thrown into the field. As the attention was turned to the stands, the spectators set fire on some of the seats. Match referee Clive Lloyd tried to restart the match, but it was all in vain. The crowd could not be controlled and the match had to be awarded to Sri Lanka. The match left an indelible mark in the storied and illustrious history of Eden Gardens.

Football
The Salt Lake Stadium incident (2012): In India, most of the documented football riots primarily takes place in Kolkata. Every time the Calcutta derby takes place between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, there is a feeling of palpable tension in the air. On 9 December 2012 at the Salt Lake Stadium one of the most notorious incidents in Indian football history took place. Mohun Bagan was losing to East Bengal and was down to 10 men when suddenly the Bagan supporters started pelting stones on the field which incidentally hit Rahim Nabi, a Mohun Bagan player which led to a gash in his forehead. Mohun Bagan left the field and did not come back on claiming security concerns. The match was then deemed cancelled.

The Eden stampede (1980): In 1980, Kolkata bore witness to one of the most horrifying incidents of sports violence. Mohun Bagan and East Bengal met at a Calcutta League match that ended in a goalless draw which enraged the supporters and a massive brawl broke out between the two <g data-gr-id="112">contingents</g> resulting in ultimate chaos. Everyone had to run for their lives from the stands. During the rush, 16 people were killed in the stampede and many more were injured. Till this day, the incident stands out like a sore thumb in Kolkata football history, a black mark that can’t ever be rubbed off.

Parc des Princes fiasco (2001): On 24 May 2001, fifty people were injured when fighting broke out at a match between PSG and Turkish club Galatasaray at the Parc des Princes stadium. Six PSG fans from the Supporters Club were arrested and charged with assault, carrying weapons and throwing items on the pitch and racism, after the incident. The six were alleged to have deliberately entered a part of the Parc des Princes stadium where French fans of Turkish origin were standing, in order to attack them. The six were banned from all football stadiums for the duration of their trial.

The Quadcopter episode (2015): During a Euro 2016 qualifying match Serbia and Albania, a small remote-controlled quadcopter drone with an Albanian flag suspended from it hovered over the stadium. Serbian defender Stefan Mitrovic pulled the flag down, causing several Albanian players to set upon him in order to retrieve the flag. Albanian player Bekim Balaj eventually took the flag before being attacked by a Serbian fan, who ran onto the pitch wielding a plastic stool, which lead to a large brawl involving players, staff and Serbian spectators. The referee eventually led the Albanian team off the pitch to the player tunnel, where more fans tried to attack them and threw numerous objects at them. After a 30-minute delay, the game was suspended at 0-0 in the 41st minute.

The Maranhao beheading (2013): One of the most horrifying and graphic incidents of spectator violence took place in Brazil. During a match in Maranhao, referee Otavio Jordao da Silva ejected Josemir Santos Abreu which led to a confrontation between the two. Out of the blue <g data-gr-id="110">da</g> Silva pulled out a knife and stabbed Abreu, who would later die from his injuries. Fans rushed the field where they tied up da Silva and ruthlessly stoned him to death. He was then decapitated and his severed head was placed on a spike on the field. One fan was arrested in relation to the murder.

The Egypt unrest (2012): A match in Egypt took an ugly turn when Port Said’s al-Masry beat Cairo's Al-Ahly 3–1. Witnesses said trouble broke out when <g data-gr-id="90">Ahly</g> fans unfurled banners insulting Port Said, and an Ahly supporter descended onto the pitch carrying an iron bar. Al-Masry fans reacted first by attacking Ahli players and then turned their attention to the opposing fans. Fights from the stands poured out onto the field, causing riots and eventual civil unrest. The riots resulted in 73 deaths and at least 1,000 injured, making it the worst disaster in the history of soccer in that nation.

Sayak Dutta

Sayak Dutta

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