The World Cup: Big thriller which can also kill

What you need to know:

Passion gone wild.  From tears, to jeers then death, passion for football among its fans can go all extremes.  Robert Mugagga recounts what different football fans have gone through for the love of the game in the previous World Cup and other football seasons.

Football is not only the most watched sport in the world but also the most passionately supported.  As the sport’s biggest tournament, the World Cup started in Qatar last weekend, Ugandan football lovers ought to be reminded and warned that with that passionate love of the game comes a great price. To some fans, being upset by their favourite teams can lead to sickness and at the worst of times the price is even in form of life.

All emotion at Nakivubo

Uganda’s football has a history of fans that died while watching the beautiful sport, one in 1974 and the other in 1985.  A staunch supporter of Express FC, a one Kiggundu and brother to Gen Edward Katumba Wamala collapsed and breathed his last at Nakivubo Stadium during a 1974 league match between Express FC and KCC FC.

The match officiated by a FIFA referee  Blasio Mwebe saw Express lead through ace striker Peter Kirumira before Jimmy Kirunda equalised for KCC FC early in the second half.

Kirunda thundered home a free kick from about 30 yards and as the fierce shot landed in Express net Kiggundu shouted, “Banange tufudde” meaning that “We are finished” and immediately collapsed to the ground where he was pronounced dead.

It was so unfortunate for him because Express later scored two more goals to carry the day by a 3-1 score margin.

The second time a fan died at Nakivubo World War II Memorial Stadium was on May 23, 1985 during a tense league match between SC Villa and Express FC. Then, the Red Eagles (Express) went on rampage disputing a referee’s decision against their club.

A German fan cries. 

Several other fans were seriously injured and a trail of destruction left behind after SC Villa had won the domestic league game.

Fufa, then led by Rwabona Kagurusi acted quickly by banning some Express fans from attending league matches including a prominent one  who nevertheless  later used to come to the stadium  while dressed as a woman.

Going slow

As far as the World Cup is concerned, in the absence of the Cranes team, Ugandan football fans have over the years picked and supported particular teams for various reasons.

Joseph Muwonge of Mengo, for instance started supporting Brazil during the early 1980s because of their yellow attire which was similar to that of his local club KCC FC. He, however gave up supporting KCC FC in 1983 because of an incident that almost claimed his life. 

“KCC FC losing to Egyptian Arab Contractors FC (now EL Mokawloon) on spot kicks in a crucial continental match was too much for me to contain. I really felt sick to the extent of being admitted,” he says.

An anxious fan. 

Since then Muwonge decided to dump  local club football saying this was one way of saving his life.

Some Ugandans indeed love their World Cup teams.

Peter Lukwago, resident of Buulwa Zone in Lubaga Division, refused to have supper the evening his Netherlands team lost 0-1 to Spain in 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. During the World Cup, Lukwago always watches Netherlands matches clad in the team’s colours of orange. He supports Holland so passionately even though he has never been to the European country.

Elsewhere, the World Cup fever is catching people of high class as well. And, who has forgotten the year 2002 when defending champions France fell to Senegal 1-0 in an opening encounter of the tournament held in Seoul, South Korea on May 31, 2002.

The current minister of state for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem watched the match at a Kampala hotel venue. At the end of the match he was pictured wearing a sad face mourning the defeat of his favourite team, France. 

The minister was later criticised for not supporting an African team while others argued that after all the French team was dominated by black players of African origin.

Argentina fans cry. PHOTOs/net

The Indian Messi ‘killed’

During the World Cup of 2018 held in Russia, an ardent fan of Argentina and its captain Lionel Messi allegedly committed suicide in Kelara, India. Dinu Alex, 30, took his life after Argentina lost 0-3 to Croatia in a group D encounter and was likely to bow out of the tournament. Dinu’s body was found in a river after leaving a note in his room saying he did not want to live anymore because he was upset over Argentina;s loss.

In his suicide note, Dinu wrote, “Nothing is left for me to see in this world. Am leaving. Nobody is responsible for my death.”  In one of his notebooks, Dinu had scribbled, “Messi, my life is for you, waiting to see you lift the World Cup.”  And about Argentina the staunch soccer fan wrote that, “My team is starting its journey carrying my life.”

Emotionally charged football fans ending up killing themselves have also been witnessed on the African continent.  In 2013, John Macharia, 28, a Kenyan and staunch supporter of Manchester United FC unable to cope with the club’s loss to Newcastle United in a Premier league match plunged to death from a multi storey apartment block in Nairobi.

This came after David Moyes’ boys suffered a second home defeat in four days thus denting their chances of retaining the league title.

Earlier on in 2009, following Arsenal FC exit from the European Champions League after a 4-1 aggregate thrashing by Manchester United, Seuiman Omondi, another Kenyan from Embakasi, killed himself. Omondi was found dead while still wearing his Arsenal jersey. He watched the match in a pub and later became inconsolable and left in fits of tears.

Also in Kenya when Arsenal lost 1-5 to Liverpool,  a Gunners’ fan was taunted by his friend with whom they had watched the match in a pub in Meru. The Arsenal supporter could not stand it and pulled out a knife stabbing his colleague who later died on the way to hospital.

Elsewhere, the world was shocked  when in November 2019  a respected Arsenal supporter in the UK took his own life after his club  failed to beat Southampton (2-2 draw) thus going four matches without winning. After the match ended, he was heard saying, “This team has finally killed me.”

More about the bad side of football and the World Cup, who has forgotten that Colombia national team  defender Andres Escobar who scored an own goal against USA in the 1994 World Cup leading to the elimination of his team.

Five days later, when he had returned, home he was shot six times and it was thought that members of a powerful drug cartel had large amounts of money staked on Colombia winning.

What about that 1969 World Cup qualifier that led two nations going to a full scale war. The South American nations of El Salvador and Honduras witnessed everything from fan suicides to fighting in the streets. And all because of a disputed win. The four-day full scale war claimed 3,000 soldiers and civilians.

Log of some fans emotions

July 1974: A football fan collapsed and died at Nakivubo stadium in Kampala when KCC FC’s Jimmy Kirunda scored an equaliser in a league match against Express FC. Express went on to win the match 3-1 

September 1984: A man who waved the opposing team’s flag was fatally stabbed in Milan and dozens injured in rioting 

May 1985: One football fan died and a score of others seriously injured at Nakivubo stadium in Kampala after SC Villa beat Express FC in a league match. Some Express fans could not contain the defeat and started rioting towards the end of the match.

May 1985: At Least 10 foreigners and police were seriously injured in riots in Beijing after China was eliminated from the world cup qualifiers by Hong Kong

August 2001: At Accra sports stadium during a match involving rival clubs Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko 126 fans died during fighting when Asante Kotoko fans disputed Hearts of Oak two late goals

June 2012: A Port Said riot between fans of rival clubs Al Masry and Al Ahly kicked off a street war that resulted into the death of 74 fans with 1500 injured.

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