The Show Must Go On…Or Must it?

Should scenes like this in one part of a city or country automatically mean a stop to sporting events?

The London riots are the most recent reminder of how quickly things can change in this world. Faster than you can type 140 characters in your twitter feed, London’s security was altered. Perhaps some saw it coming but the vast majority didn’t. Then again this year has followed this script hasn’t it? Expect the unexpected. From Tunisia to Egypt to Cote d’ Ivoire to Yemen to Syria to an increasingly growing list of countries the world seems increasingly fragile. That’s until a historian presses hard on our breaks and points us to even more difficult times past. Until then though forgive the hyperbole. 

The main reason for this post however is not to discuss the geopolitics or economics of these riots. I’ve been fascinated by the number of people on my timeline that have been asking for the Ghana-Nigeria game in Watford to be cancelled. The speculation that England-Holland would be cancelled has just a few moments ago been confirmed. 

There are different attitudes to sports when there is a crisis or a tragedy. Often, people experience sports to take their minds away from their daily routines and challenges. Much like going to watch your favorite band or musician, sports events are seen as a way to de-stress and get your mind off difficult times.

In Egypt, the national football league was suspended with good reason. The anarchy that engulfed the entire country was unprecedented. Emboldened crowds gathered in the streets as law and order crumbled like a chocolate chip cookie. For a period, the Egyptian police abandoned their posts and even though the vacuum was filled by the military at one stage they were more concerned with securing property than discouraging people from being in the streets. Under those circumstances, surely there could be no football. People wanted and were fighting for change. Football and other sports were nowhere close to being on the radar of Egyptian life.

In the aftermath of September 11, the discussion as to whether sports events should go on soon after the attacks was present. I don’t remember it being much of the debate. The general attitude was the terrorists were not going to decide how Americans should live their lives. Holding sports events then was a way to show defiance to the terrorists. Cue the American flags and endless show of patriotism. Without comparing the scale of those attacks to the riots/looting in London, perhaps going on with the Ghana-Nigeria match will show a similar defiance.

Then again, we have a situation where as we approach the game it increasingly appears meaningless. The two teams will not be at full strength and the rioting has clearly not been brought under full control. The stage is set for any anarchists to use public events like this match as the venue for mischief. 

While we can do the typical Ghanaian thing and ‘pray’ that nothing happens, perhaps a more reliable measure might be the Hertfordshire Police who after all would be in charge of wider security. If they do a proper assessment and reach the conclusion that the match can go ahead I am willing to trust them. This despite the general slowness to respond over the last three nights by politicians and police.

So until we hear anything canceling the match, I hope it is a good game and that Ghana wins. 

Go Black Stars.