Ellis Park tragedy: lest we forget

Roy and Annette Nation flank Lindi Gabaza whose son Mduduzi Thomo was one of the 43 victims of the Ellis Park disaster. The Nation family lost their 11-year-old son Rosswin that Wednesday night in April 2001.
Roy and Annette Nation flank Lindi Gabaza whose son Mduduzi Thomo was one of the 43 victims of the Ellis Park disaster. The Nation family lost their 11-year-old son Rosswin that Wednesday night in April 2001.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Yesterday, marked the 18th anniversary of the Ellis Park disaster but the day went unnoticed as there was no official event by the PSL to commemorate the 43 fans who perished during a Soweto Derby in 2001.

PSL and Pirates chairperson Irvin Khoza confirmed on the eve of the anniversary that they have not planned anything significant to mark the tragic day.

Apart from those who died on that day, more than 150 fans were injured as people forced their way into the stadium that was already full. That match featured arch-rivals Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.

It was SA's biggest stadium disaster. In the Orkney soccer tragedy, 42 supporters died in 1991 as a result of an overcrowded Oppenheimer Stadium.

Ironically, that match featured Chiefs and Pirates.

Speaking to the media this week, Khoza said they had not planned anything significant for the anniversary to give families some space to grieve their loved ones.

"There was a press conference that was held at the stadium some time back where we made a commitment to give the families some space to grieve," Khoza said.

"The Ellis Park disaster is an emotional one and we have not abandoned it but we did make a statement that we have done our part..."

Now that Khoza is convinced that they have done their part, we hope the affected families were part of this emotive decision.

At the last Hillsborough memorial held in Anfield, England, in 2016, the families of the 96 people who died in the 1989 disaster unanimously agreed with the decision to hold the anniversary for the last time. It showed that they were consulted.

Nevertheless, we hail Pirates and Chiefs management and players for commemorating the anniversary through their social media platforms yesterday. The clubs bosses also issued statements to this regard.

But the time is opportune for soccer fans and the society in general to join forces and organise these anniversaries. Surely, it can't only be the responsibilities of the PSL and the two clubs to honour the departed supporters.

Those who died don't belong to the league, Chiefs or Pirates but to the society. So we, as a nation, have an important role to play to celebrate their lives. Once again, may their souls rest in peace!

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