COPS ON HIGH ALERT FOR ZEBRAS CUP GAME
When the senior national football team takes on South Africa in Gaborone this Saturday the tension charged clash will be more than just a game between fierce local rivals. The capital’s police force will also be on high alert.
The match will be treated as a high-risk encounter as a precaution against possible crowd disturbances as thousands of football fans converge on the inadequately sized UB stadium.
No stone will be left unturned in terms of security as authorities brace themselves for an invasion of hordes of excited football fans when the Zebras play Bafana Bafana this Saturday.
The game has generated an unprecedented level of interest and rivalry, with all the printed tickets selling out in two days and fans exchanging heated insults on social media platforms ahead of the game, FIFA Security Manager Bikkie Mbenge has revealed.
Although the University of Botswana Stadium capacity is 8000 only 7 500 tickets were printed in order to give breathing space in the constricted venue.
Mbenge said FIFA, CAF and BFA have been concerned by a number of factors, amongst them the inadequate crowd capacity of the UB stadium, and are treating the all-ticket game as a potential trouble spot.
“The capacity makes the stadium a high risk venue since many will be turned away even if they have the money. It is a long time since we played our cousins from neighbouring South Africa and the interest has been intense. This is the biggest game between the two sides in many years and over and above that, it is also a vital World Cup Qualifier.
He indicated that FIFA would apply strict safety regulations and take all the necessary precautions to safeguard fans from potential danger.
“Only last week FIFA called off a game between Mali and Algeria because of insufficient security,” Mbenge said.
He went on to say: “The biggest fear in a game like this is the possibility of a stampede. We won’t allow anybody without a ticket to go beyond the University gates. Those who have purchased tickets will also not be allowed to change their seating arrangements.”
He added that the BFA along with law enforcement officers would take strict measure to prevent violent clashes between rival fans both inside and outside the UB Stadium. They would also secure the ground against possible pitch invasions.
In urging ‘the football family’ to behave he pointed out that failure to comply with the FIFA safety measures would result in the offending team being suspended and heavily fined.
He gave the example of fans in England who celebrated Manchester City’s win with an invasion, saying, “This shouldn’t happen here.”
He indicated that the area from the UB circle and all the surrounding areas are to be regarded as high-risk areas, with areas within the ground under tight surveillance.
“You can see how seriously we are taking security,” Mbenge stressed.
Meanwhile Central police Station Commander, Kevin Mookodi also pointed out that that the police were ready for this clash as they were aware of “all that may happen.”
“We know that there will be people there for the sole purpose of stealing, and we will deploy as many officers as possible. We have the right back-up and the right personnel. It may not necessarily be heavily armed police officers, but we have reinforced our numbers,” he warned.
He also indicated that strict traffic control measures would be in place, and called on all without tickets to stay away from the stadium.
“I want to encourage people to co-operate with the Police. We will have a parking area by the Notwane grounds so people should know that their cars will be safe. I also wish to call on all Batswana to behave well and show the South Africans that we are well behaved people,” Mookodi urged.
Speaking from South Africa, the country’s Football Association (SAFA) mouthpiece, Dominic Tshivadzi said that by the end of business on Wednesday they had only sold around100 tickets, blaming the late arrival of tickets for the small numbers.
“Almost all South Africans have passports, so maybe it is because the team has not been doing well. We will see what to do with those tickets when we cross the border. Maybe they can be sold in Botswana. We will be arriving on Thursday and all things will be fixed then, “ Tshivadzi explained