Police investigate SC Villa fans’ attack on Vipers publicist Wasike
SPORT | Police are investigating allegations that Vipers SC publicist and journalist Abdu Wasike was attacked by irate SC Villa fans following the Jogoos’ 1-0 defeat to URA FC on Saturday.
The incident at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole, allegedly happened after the final whistle on the stadium terrace.
The officer in charge of Bweyogerere Police Station, Kennedy Ssebagala, confirmed that there was a minor scuffle as some soccer fans, presumably of the record league champions, mobbed Wasike and attempted to rough him up.
Ssebagala said he was among the security officers who stepped in to quell the scuffle before it could turn ugly.
Wasike said SC Villa fans, already frustrated with the defeat that leaves them hanging precariously a place above relegation zone, are angry because some of them were banned from accessing St Mary’s Stadium, Kitenda, after last season’s incident when they vandalised property.
Last season, league champions Vipers banned several SC Villa fans from accessing St Mary’s after an incident during which they protested and uprooted stadium seats as well as engaging in various acts of vandalism.
“l was with my colleague Micheal Kigozi (Radio One and NBS TV journalist) having a chat when a section of SC Villa fans attacked me,” he said.
“One fan wanted to pull my specks off, another pulled my ears and kicked me. Others asked what I was doing in Namboole and not Kitende.”
Police confirmed that Wasike reported the assault case and that they were investigating the matter, urging anyone with information that could help identify the culprits to report to Bweyogerere Police Station.
Wasike, still a presenter with KFM radio and a seasoned journalist, watches league games and Saturday’s was not any different.
“When Vipers isn’t playing, l go out to watch other teams in action,” he said, arguing that, like many other journalists working with different clubs or organisations, league matches are open to all and not just fans of particular teams in action.
But with frustration and pressure, SC Villa fans wouldn’t want to hear this.
Earlier in the season, the Jogoos turned on their own, attempting to lynch then manager Moses Basena, after a 2-1 defeat to Mbarara City at Kavumba Recreation Ground in November.
Basena, who had to be helped out of the venue to the team bus by security after the match as a section of angry Villa fans charged up and threatened to beat him up, threw in the towel weeks later.
He was replaced with Douglas Bamweyana, who started off on a high though Villa still remain languishing in 13th place on the 16-team log and in serious danger of dropping to second tier, Fufa Big League.
But the latest incident, captured on camera by a fan, has been the subject of intense debate among soccer fans on social media. The video captures Wasike surrounded by seemingly irate fans, with one in particular adorning a checquered cream shirt pulling Wasike’s ears and attempting to rough him up.
Other fans, including some in replica club jerseys, heckled incessantly as they remonstrated with Wasike.
“Hooliganism is one problem that different past football administrators in this country dismally failed to address,” he said.
“Each time after it has happened, people bury their heads in the sand and go back to business as usual; as they await other heated contests on the pitch, off the pitch and, potentially, other ugly clashes.”
On Sunday, SC Villa initially condemned the attack on Wasike on its official Facebook page, but the ‘statement’ was pulled down after a section of fans, still seething from defeat and too angry with Wasike, insisted there was nothing to condemn.
But the Villa Park hierarchy are understood to be disturbed by the incident. Interim head of communication Joseph Kizito said he was at the stadium for the match but did not witness the incident.
“I have not received any report on that. And I was in the stadium. If it happened, then it is unfortunate. I will investigate,” Kizito said.
SC Villa secretary Norbert Kazibwe acknowledged the incident, saying the club does not condone such acts among fans. He said it was the second time Jogoos were having an altercation with Wasike.
“I personally asked him to put the first in writing to SC Villa but he left it hanging. We shall take charge of the situation, we remain mindful of the damage to the Villa Brand,” Kazibwe said.
Indeed, brand is one of the major concerns of football federation Fufa and league managers Uganda Premier League as well as sponsors StarTimes. Among the main issues in the broadcaster’s ten-year sponsorship deal was that Fufa acts tough on fixing the image of the league across all fronts.
While explaining the decision to ink major shirt sponsorship deals with SC Villa and KCCA FC and ignoring Express FC, Aldrine Nsubuga, the StarTimes Uganda vice president and head of marketing, said the Red Eagles were disorganised and thrived on hooliganism.
He suggested at the time that sponsors are after brands and that brands stained with fan violence are difficult to market.
SC Villa lost the shirt deal at the end of last season and are one of the few clubs without a major shirt sponsor this season.