There were emotional tributes at College of Medicine in Blantyre on Friday when the body of late soccer fan Geoffrey Mwale who died in the wee hours of the day, was being taken to his home village Chiwengo in the area of Traditional Authority Chilowamatambe in Kasungu where he will be buried on Sunday.
Mwale, who has been lying unconscious at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre since May 10, succumbed to serious head injuries he sustained during the incident that occurred after a league match between Malawi Defense Force side Red Lions and Surestream at Kamuzu Stadium.
Among those who paid their last homage in sombre faces included, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu, George Jana from Sports Council, James Chuma, Malawi national team players, Sulom officials like Tiya Somba Banda, Daudi Suleman and senior police officers.
There was wailing when the family, led by Geoffrey’s mother and father viewed the body.
In his eulogy, FAM President Walter Nyamilandu asked for justice to prevail, saying in a strong tone that no one is above the law and described Geoffrey’s death as murder.
“We are ashamed, embarrassed because of a few misguided fans who have put the image of our football at stake,” said Nyamilandu, conspicuously shocked.
“ I am appealing to senior security officers and government to help us on this matter because a young man has lost his life in a brutal way,” said FAM president.
Nyamilandu also said it is high time people regard football as entertainment not a “war zone”.
“Geoffrey went to the stadium to watch football but it is unfortunate that today we are escorting him to his final resting place because of a few people, who ganged up on him,” said Nyamilandu.
He also urged the general public to desist from violence during football match emphasizing the nation cannot afford to be losing people in such a way.
“We at FAM value life and a loss of loved one brings unbearable pain. We stand tall and united in grief with the Mwale family. We share in their pain and sorrow, “Nyamilandu said.
“As FAM, we will be doing football and the soul of Godfrey Mwale no favours if we do not condemn in strongest terms the acts of barbarism, violence and hooliganism still existing in our game though, sporadically. Any form of violence or hooliganism threaten the very core foundations on whose the spirit of the game was built on thus; entertainment, warmth, togetherness and fair-play. Based on the pillars above, the loss of life at football matches in unnecessary,` he said.
Mwale has become a second soccer fan to lose life to violence at a domestic football match within a space of just over a year. Lemiyasi Josita died in similar circumstances during a game between Mighty Wanderers and Silver Strikers at Balaka Stadium in December 2013.
An uncle to the deceased Joseph Mwale, who came all the way from Kasungu shed tears before paying his tribute.
“Mpira ku Malawi wasanduka imfa lero [Football has turned into fertile ground for death in Malawi]. As family members our plea to Fam and government is that we want justice to prevail because Geoffrey has died a young man). He was not a violent boy yet some people had the guts to beat him up before he breathed his last,” he said, amid tears from a section of women, who thronged College of Medicine mortuary.
Stanley Mwale, father of late Geoffrey has already indicated that after the burial of his son he will lodge a wrongful death charges against MDF.
Super League of Malawi (Sulom) treasurer Tiya Somba-Banda, who acts as the body’s spokesperson, said the continued deaths due to football violence are painting a bad picture about Malawi soccer.
Sulom vice-president Daud Suleman said the body saddened by the death of Mwale and called for concerted efforts to fight violence and hooliganism.
“This is the time that we should all come together, bang heads and find the way to deal with this problem from the grassroots,” he said. “We are creating tears and fear and that is not what football is all about”, lamented Suleman.
Youth Development and Sports Minister Grace Chiumia has described the loss of a second life to violence as a big shame for Malawi football.
Chiumia wants more to be done to tackle the problem.
“The fine handed to Red Lions is too little to stop football hooliganism and as government we want to see justice take place. Elsewhere if a team behaves the way Red Lions did then it is banned,” she said.
Mwale suffered acute hematoma as a result of head trauma and swelling of the brain, according to Dr Patrick Kamalo.
Trouble flared after Red Lions players assaulted referee Borniface Chipinga following the final whistle, angry with him for a penalty he awarded to Surestream in the dying minutes. The game ended 2-2.
Surestream fans responded by smashing Red Lions’ team bus and soldiers were called to the scene from a nearby army base.
Super League of Malawi (Sulom) fined Red Lions US$8,280 and suspended eight of their players and a team doctor involved in the assault of referee for six and 12 months respectively.
However no criminal case was opened for the assault of Mwale and now following his death the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) has in a statement called for an investigation.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :