In Morocco and Tunisia, violence erupted during Champions League matches. A recurring phenomenon, throughout the continent and particularly in North Africa.
It's a "match fact" that we could have done without... In Radès, Tunisia, on April 29, supporters of Espérance de Tunis, the capital's flagship club, spent a first half rather calm, during the meeting of the African Champions League between their club and the Sports Youth of Kabylie. But at halftime, violence took place. And we saw a supporter come out armed… with a chainsaw!
Something EXTREMELY abnormal happened last night in Rades.
Esperance fans were disciplined and well in order all throughout the 1st HT.
Some individuals started causing trouble at HT… one of them had a Chainsaw…
You're not allowed to bring a lighter into a stadium…#Tunisia pic.twitter.com/IQpZbdQM0D
— Souhail Khmira (@SKhmira) April 30, 2023
Sanctions that are not very dissuasive
Enough to fear the worst for the other Tunis club, Club Africain, which met Étoile Sportive du Sahel two days later. The Club Africain management committee has decided to call on its supporters to calm down. It was a question of avoiding violence in the stands, which could lead to sanctions.
Because for Esperance, the events of April 28 could well be serious. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) is indeed considering severe sanctions against the Tunisian club. The African institution had already imposed four matches behind closed doors against Esperance, two of which were suspended, after violence that occurred during a meeting against Al-Ahly in 2021.
These violent events do not only affect Tunisia. On April 29, a young supporter of Raja Casablanca, who was opposed to Al-Ahly, died near the stadium, probably due to water cannons used by the security forces.
A wave of violence that is not new, everywhere in Africa, and more particularly in North Africa. We remember, in February 2012, deadly riots after a match, in Egypt, between Al-Masry and Al-Ahly. Eleven supporters were sentenced to death in 2015, following a resounding trial. There have been many events like these over the past six decades. Like in Accra, where a stampede killed more than 120 people in 2001. While, shortly before, in Kenya, the President of the Republic Daniel arap Moi had been targeted by angry supporters.
Disillusioned young people
But what is the problem? Why are football and violence still sadly linked in Africa? In 2017, Amine Mougou, spokesperson for the Tunisian Football Federation, considered that the incidents in the stadiums testified to "a social phenomenon that goes beyond sport" and that it was "the tension in the country which reverberates in the stadiums”. A study, commissioned by the government, indicated at the time that violence had increased under the regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, allowing supporters to "protest" despite the regime's restrictions. The stands of Tunisian stadiums have been, since well before 2011, places of political demands for the young people of the country.
Last year, questioned after violence at the Moulay Abdellah stadium in Rabat, sociologist Abderrahim Bourkia, professor at the Institute of Sports Sciences in Settat, asked for "exemplary sanctions and support" for young violent supporters. “It is time to invest in our young people and implement a policy for them and programs that include them all. Otherwise, we will only have ticking time bombs that could explode anytime and anywhere,” he explained. In other words, the measures taken by the authorities of the countries – in Morocco, several clubs are regularly sanctioned – must be accompanied by an effective support policy.