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Ghana May 9th Tragedy and the lessons learnt

MAY 9TH 2001, A Football Tragedy and Lessons 

Hearts Vs Kotoko
Hearts Vs Kotoko

Arguable one of the most tragic and sorrowful days in Ghanaian sports history. Wednesday May 9th, 2001, which began as a day of huge anticipation and high expectations would end as one of the saddest days in Ghana. A day which started with huge excitement amongst the teeming supporters of Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko would conclude in uncontrollable wailing and deep desolation not just for the fans of these two teams but an entire nation.


 Ghana’s two foremost premiere league teams had been simultaneously excelling in the league, a scenario which had not happened in quite some time; Their players were in top form, management elite and the fans had remained in a state of high and ecstasy up until that fateful Wednesday.  

Every football fan in the country, whether a supporter of Hearts and Kotoko, or another team had waited for this day. 


Finally, the day for the ‘Clash of the Titans’ had arrived. A day which will go down in Ghana’s Sports history as rather unfortunate and sadly unforgettable. The pain of it remains unbearable for survivors and those who lost loved ones. A haunting scene for those who witnessed it and a nightmare for both supporters and spectators. 


As events would unfold that day, Hearts would leave the fixture as winners but the entire country including Accra Hearts of OAK would end the fateful day in a heap of misery and unending tears. 


Without delving too much into the on-field events which precipitated this Mayhem, this write-up reviews some causes and lessons from this tragic event. 

  • Crowd Control

 It is generally observed that the police and security tasked with ensuring order may have overreacted in their attempt to control the fans especially of Kotoko who perceived that certain decisions against their team had been unfair and proceeded to show their displeasure by reacting accordingly. 

The security personnel would fire tear gas seeking to disperse them. This single act would set off a chain of events which has made May 9th each subsequent year a nightmare for some and a rather harsh lesson for many.


To be fair, the police did not err in the initial firing of the gas into the stands. However, it would be the subsequent rounds of gas unleashed into the now scared and agitated crowd looking for an escape that would turn an exercise in crowd control into tragedy of epic proportions. 


By firing several rounds of gas at the fleeing fans in all directions and saturating the atmosphere with unbreathable air, the police rather turned the Accra sports Stadium from a footballing haven into a death trap akin to Ghana’s version of GAZA in Palestine. 

  • Locked Stadium Exits 

Another unfortunate cause was that many exits remained closed even as the game itself was ending, making thousands of now petrified fans trying to escape the tear gas all converge at a narrow exit. It is noted that this contributed to even more deaths as a literal stampede occurred with many people trapped under the feet of a group fighting for survival. 

  • Inadequately trained emergency first aide personnel  

The lack of adequate emergency services in the country and under-resourced first aid equipment, including ambulances was a factor in the enormous loss of lives. 

The rescuers on the day would do their utmost best by taking as many people as possible to the hospital themselves. 


Unfortunately, this act may have also contributed to the increased number of casualties in that by packing a whole bunch of people together some who may have just been unconscious and needed as much air as possible would perish through asphyxia by suffocating to death.  



More than 20 years later, not many things have changed since that fatal and fateful day in 2001 to ensure that in law enforcement’s attempt to control a hyped-up-crowd a more organized and well-trained approach would be employed. 


Barely 5 years ago in Ghana’s election 2020, the country would again record the loss of many lives though the actions and inactions of law enforcement. 


Even as we solemnly remember this tragic period in our history, once again I say ‘DAMRIFUE-DUE’ to all who lost loved ones through the events recorded on Wednesday May 9th,2001 and many other sporting events. 


May the Almighty continue to give us all strength and peace. God Bless Our Homeland Ghana. GYE NYAME!

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