Saturday, July 23, 2011

Crowd violence

Some of the Prek Pra agitators rush forward to voice their displeasure
Football-related violence reared its very ugly head at the Olympic Stadium this afternoon. Related as in the fans of one team in particular got so overheated with the match officials that we saw scenes that resembled a few British and European matches of the 70s and 80s. Local professional team Prek Pra Keila are well known for their vocal supporters and their large numbers of Muslim followers who come and watch all of their matches at the Olympic Stadium but what we witnessed at the end of today's game has no place in football. Displeased with some of the match officials' decisions, a handful of Prek Pra followers decided to express their anger by throwing water bottles from the grandstand as the match ended and the players and officials were about to leave the pitch area. Players took cover as a barrage of water bottles rained down, injuring one of the ball-boys on the leg. As half a dozen military police moved in to stop the disturbance, it escalated and the police were surrounded, outnumbered and were forced to withdraw. The vociferous Prek Pra fans continued to voice their outrage which had now turned its wrath onto the police before the team's manager calmed the situation down and the fans dispersed. From my viewpoint, the fury displayed by a couple of females in the crowd egged on the others and the police then exposed themselves with their ineffectual handling of the situation. There were not enough police officers to handle the size of the crowd and their 'bull in a china shop' attempt to diffuse the angry fans only inflamed them. The whole episode brought considerable shame on the Prek Pra supporters and may necessitate segregating their fans at future matches. Football has been a catalyst for the Muslim community in Prek Pra to openly display their support for the football team but today's game exposed how easily that can be used as a vehicle for public disturbance, which is a road Cambodian football does not want to go down.

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