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Home / The dangers of political flags, banners at stadiums … ‘SWAPO’ flags spotted at Brave Warriors match

The dangers of political flags, banners at stadiums … ‘SWAPO’ flags spotted at Brave Warriors match

2018-10-18  Otniel Hembapu

The dangers of political flags, banners at stadiums … ‘SWAPO’ flags spotted at Brave Warriors match

WINDHOEK – While Namibians in all corners of the country are still jovially basking in the glory of Brave Warriors’ 1-0 win over the resilient Mozambican Black Mambas on Tuesday at the Sam Nujoma Stadium, it has also since emerged that a certain portion of fans in attendance breached FIFA rules and regulations when they hoisted political flags during the match.

Based on multiple pictures captured by the media during Tuesday’s match, coupled with those making countless rounds on various social media platforms, a certain quota of supporters in attendance were seen hoisting large flags assumed to be that of the country’s ruling political party SWAPO during the course of the match – a practice that directly defied Article 60 of FIFA’s Stadium Safety and Security Regulations.

Article 60 of FIFA, which deals with “Prevention of provocative and aggressive actions” and more specifically with political actions, reads as follows: “The promotion or announcement of political or religious messages or any other political or religious actions, inside or in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, by any means, is strictly prohibited before, during and after matches”.

Under sub-section of Article 60, which further regulates and provides guidance for fans when entering stadiums, goes on to prohibit: “…stadium visitors and accredited persons are not permitted to use items of a racist, xenophobic, charitable or ideological nature or items that could detract from the sporting focus…or any item that could distract the players and/or officials”.    

During Tuesday’s match, which saw the victorious Brave Warriors move closer to qualification for next year’s African Cup of Nations to be held in Cameroon, more than two spectators could be seen hoisting large flags near the main stand which were coated in the blue, red and green SWAPO colours while another one could also be seen on the eastern side of the stadium waving another large flag in the very same blue, red and green colours of the ruling party. 

Speaking to New Era Sport yesterday, Namibia Football Association (NFA) secretary-general Barry Rukoro acknowledged to have also seen spectators hoisting flags that were layered in SWAPO colours but said it was difficult for the NFA to pinpoint that those flags were indeed SWAPO flags or perhaps they were just ordinary flags that has a different meaning to the owners and not necessarily linked to the ruling party.

“I mean if I ask anyone to justify why they are saying those were SWAPO flags, how will they justify because they (the flags) could mean something totally different to the owners of the flags and not necessarily SWAPO as we might all think. Yes I agree that the colours on the flags are those of SWAPO but those colours could also mean something else that you and me do not know at this moment. So for now I don’t think it’s fair to say those were SWAPO flags because the owners of the flags might not even be SWAPO members,” explained Rukoro, who said little to discourage Namibians from aligning themselves along political, religious and racial lines when supporting the national team.

Just a few months ago at this year’s World Cup in Russia, Switzerland’s World Cup team was heavily fined by the tournament organizers for celebrating goals against Serbia with a gesture that honored their roots in Kosovo, the former Serbian province.

Switzerland’s stars Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, whose ethnic Albanian families fled Serbian repression before Kosovo gained independence, were ordered to pay 10,000 Swiss francs each for crossing their hands into the sign of the double-headed eagle that adorns the Albanian flag after they scored against Serbia in a 2-1 victory in Kaliningrad, Russia.

Also last year, FIFA has fined the Serbian Football Federation 160,000 Swiss francs for incidents involving fans at World Cup qualifying games. At the time, FIFA had indicated that “political and discriminatory banners” were shown at games in Austria and at home against Georgia.

The fines covered a range of charges including “political chants” in Vienna. Fans were filmed chanting support for Serbia’s claim on neighboring Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.

FIFA has also in recent month’s fined multiple federations because fans brandished and chanted offensive, political or religious messages at their opposition during matches, with Argentina leading the pack with a fined of 40,000 Swiss francs (US$40,000); Peru 25,000 Swiss francs (US$25,000); Chile 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,000); Brazil and Mexico both 10,000 Swiss francs (US$10,000) – all fined for an avalanche of misconducts that breached Article 60 of FIFA’s Stadium Safety and Security Regulations.

2018-10-18  Otniel Hembapu

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