Retired referee Jacob Wilson Sey, who was at the centre of the ‘May 9 Disaster’ game between Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko that saw 127 football fans lose their lives, has fingered the then National Sports Council (NSC) now Authority, as the main course of the disaster.
Opening up on the events that led to one of the worst stadium disasters in Africa 19 years ago, he stated emphatically that the then NSC simply did not take their responsibilities seriously enough, insisting that the blame should be laid at their doorstep.
“The then NSC at that time did not play their role well at all. How can all exit gates be locked at that particular point in time when the game was over,?” he quizzed, adding “that is not the practice across the world.”
Throwing light in an interview with Kumasi-based FOX Fm on the purported incident that led to the crowd violence on the day, the then Takoradi-based referee revealed that he ignored an infringement in the lead-up to the Ishmael Addo equaliser.
“Hearts made a move towards the goal area of Kotoko. During that move, there was an infringement which my assistant F.D. Arthur raised his flag and that foul was going the way of Hearts and not Kotoko as being stated in some quarters.”
According to him, Hearts’ Emmauel Osei Kuffour had the power to move on; “so I signaled my assistant to put down the flag and allowed play to continue and the fast-paced Ishmael Addo picked the ball and scored.”
“The thing is that the normal Ghanaian football fan will say because the flag was raised the goal should not be allowed without knowing the reason behind the decision.
“In refereeing, if you are about to take an infringement that would be a disadvantage to the attacking team, you do not have to whistle but rather give them the advantage and that is what I applied during the game. Most fans got the interpretation wrong on the day.”
Revealing how he was appointed as the centre-man for the game, Mr Sey said he together with referee McCharthy and Essel Walker were the three centre referees and two assistants picked for the game. However, on the morning of the game at the pre-match, a lot was cast and the mantle fell on him.
He stated that as match officials, they did their work to the fullest according to the dictates of the trade.
The educationist further revealed that on that fateful day, comments before and during the game from persons whom he thought were so responsible, affected the game.
“People were preaching blood-bath should they lose. Hearts were on top during that time even though both teams played well. However, because Kotoko had some back-up players, most people felt that was their time. The manner Kotoko defended in that game was so good and beautiful.”
He expressed no regrets for officiating that particular game, but was sad seeing innocent souls perish “because of the negligence of the Sports Authority.”
BY RAYMOND ACKUMEY