Former chairman of Kumasi Asante Kotoko, Herbert Mensah, continues to light the candle to remember victims and families of the May 9 football disaster after 19 years.
For victims alive and families left behind, the day is one they look forward to, for remembrance and assistance to go through life.
A midweek soccer match between Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko at the Accra Sports Stadium in 2001 ended 2-1 in favour of Hearts and some fans dissatisfied with the level of officiating started ripping off chairs at the Ade Coker stand.
Security personnel on duty responded with the firing of tear gas into the crowd resulting in a stampede crushing to death 126 soccer fans.
A presidential commission of enquiry set by the Kufuor administration recommended for the prosecution of six police officers for manslaughter. They were, however, freed by the court due to the lack of credible evidence.
But the memory of those who lost their lives that fateful has been kept alive by former chairman of Kumasi Asante, Herbert Mensah who has made it a yearly ritual to honour them.
Through his benevolence, and support from GB foods, Sunda Ghana, Interplast and Ghana Rugby, food and financial support continue to be extended to some of the victims’ whiles some with serious injuries continue to receive medical care both in Ghana and abroad.
At his Osu residence, some of the victims and dependents were presented with various items to cushion them in life.
“Usually we will hold our traditional route march and draw attention to the day but because of the Coronavirus pandemic and government ban on social gatherings, we held a small ceremony here to present some of the victims with food items, cash and in some cases wheelchairs to aid their movement and this we have done since 2002 and we will continue to honour them,” Mr. Mensah said.
Despite the reality of the May 9 soccer disaster, crowd violence in our stadia continues to be a concern.
Mr. Herbert Mensah says not much lessons have been learnt. “Football is an emotional game but we have to be responsible and that why during my days at Kotoko I will hold hands with Harry Zarkhour of hearts of Oak to draw attention to the fact that we are one despite our sporting affiliations but clearly lessons have not been learnt.
“I recall that fateful day, the smell of the tear gas, soccer fans crying and screaming for help, I remember carrying about 20 or 30 bodies, I saw the locked gate, the stampede and later at the 37 Military Hospital with the late Komla Dumor we counted about 97 dead bodies and if you wouldn’t want to be violent if you have been in such a situation,” Herbert indicated.
Some of the May 9 victims thanked Mr. Herbert Mensah for his continuous support,’
“Mr. Mensah has always been there for us, money, food, medical support and even support for our children always came from him and we are forever grateful, one of them stressed,” one of the victims spoke on their behalf.