By Hassan Benmehdi
The last few games in the Botola Pro witnessed dangerous acts of hooliganism such as the scenes of violence that marred the Wydad Casablanca (WAC) v. FAR Rabat match on Day 25, with huge amounts of damage caused to sports facilities.
During the WAC-FAR game, Hamza Bekkali, a young man from Meknes in his early twenties, was beaten to death.
In a press statement, the victim’s family and loved ones barely knew what to say. His shocked parents and friends condemned Hamza’s death: “It’s a huge loss for us… This is not the kind of sport or show that we want for our children.”
Before setting off on a trip to Moscow, Mohamed Ouzzine, the Minister of Youth and Sports, stated that everyone must rally to put a stop to the acts of violence that have been perpetrated at football grounds recently. He added that an interdepartmental committee with representatives from the ministries of sport, interior and justice was created to hammer out a national strategy to deal effectively with hooliganism.
This tripartite committee will focus mainly on the immediate environment in which young people grow up: their families, friends, close relations, schools, sports clubs and sports associations.
The Moroccan Football Federation plans to ask clubs to bar unaccompanied minors from entering football grounds.
After the incident during the game between WAC and FAR at the Mohammed V ground, 44 people, including 19 minors, went to the public prosecutor’s office attached to the Court of First Instance in Casablanca.
The accused individuals were handed over to the court and charged with hooliganism, destroying a public sports facility, violence against state officers who were attempting to do their duty, destroying public property, theft involving the use of violence and possession of bladed weapons.
In a statement, the health ministry said that due to the influx of people brought in for treatment after the recent incident, the management of the University Hospital Centre of Casablanca decided to “bring in extra staff and provide free treatment for all of the victims”. It added that “all of the 73 patients, who included 34 police and Auxiliary Forces officers and 39 young supporters, were initially seen by emergency doctors.”
Merhaoui Hamid, a member of the Raja Casablanca Supporters’ Association, told Magharebia that a security-based approach was not enough on its own.
“First of all, they need to forbid unaccompanied minors from entering football grounds, and then they should focus on educating young people and minors and raising their awareness of the values of friendship, reconciliation, fair play, public-spiritedness, sportsmanship and so on,” Hamid said.
Hooliganism also threatens public safety and exacerbates people’s feelings of insecurity. “I shut up my shop and make sure I move my car on the days when matches are played, because I’ve seen lots of supporters wrecking cars outside the exit,” said one man who lives close to the Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca.
Observers say that violence at football grounds, which is now resulting in deaths and injuries to fans, has reached a dangerous turning-point and calls for far-reaching and comprehensive discussions on the part of all parties concerned, including the federation, clubs, authorities, psychologists and sociologists.