May 9 2021 marks 20 years since the Accra sports stadium disaster that took away the lives of over 126 Ghanaian soccer fans and brutally shocked the nation. The Accra stadium disaster negatively affected the game of football in Ghana especially match day attendance between the two rival clubs at the center of the 2001 stadium disaster.
Fans of both Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko football clubs died during the historic disaster.
For 20 years, there has been a lot of talk from sports and government authorities about what may have gone wrong during the game to occasion such a disaster. However, little has been done to prevent a reoccurrence of the 2001 incident.
Remembering the Day
The one thing that has happened in the past twenty years is the effort made by some individual actors in Ghana football to ensure that the memory remains alive of the numerous Ghanaians who lost their lives during the 2001 Accra sports stadium disaster.
One of such people who has dedicated time and resources to keep the memory of the day alive is Herbert Mensah, chairman of Asante Kotoko during the period of the disaster. Mr. Mensah personally carried the bodies of some of the victims on May 9 2001 and remains deeply scarred by the incident.
This personal experience made a profound impact on Herbert Mensah and propelled him to start the May 9 Foundation, a charity organization with the aim of supporting families of the victims of the disaster, keeping the memories alive and promoting the inherent lessons to be learnt from the historic disaster.
For 20 years, he has championed the annual remembrance of the Accra sports stadium disaster in both Kumasi and Accra. For 20 years, he and his organization has supported the families of the victims of the stadium disaster. And for 20 years, he and the May 9 foundation have ensured that Ghanaians and the world never forget about the historically disastrous day in Ghana. Unfortunately, for 20 years, other sports administrators and government officials have been apathetic towards the activities and efforts to keep the memories of the historic day alive.
According to Herbert Mensah, past governments and sports authorities have shown very little to no interest in supporting the memory of the day or the lives of the families left behind. And although he was not personally responsible for the disaster that occurred on that day, Herbert Mensah has made it his life-long cause to keep the flame of remembrance burning and extend the blessings of charity to those who desperately need it.
With support from the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, King of Asanteman, who is also patron of Kumasi Asante Kotoko, plus a dedicated group of private sponsors, Herbert Mensah has kept the memory of May 9 alive and brought hope and consolation to the numerous families and young children who struggled to grow up with single parents due to the Accra stadium disaster.
In the past couple of years, many dedicated sponsors have supported the personal effort of Mr. Mensah to help families of victims and keep the memories of the dead alive. They include the Sunda International group, Interplast Ghana, Gino products and many others. These sponsors have continued to support the individual efforts of the veteran sports administrator and business man in line with the values of their business operations and as part of their corporate social responsibilities.
Embrace The Day
The theme for the 20th anniversary of the Accra stadium disaster is ‘’EMBRACE THE DAY’’ to remind Ghanaians that the only way to prevent a repeat of the Accra stadium disaster is to never forget the historic incident and the suffering of the families of the victims.
The May 9 foundation will launch a photo book that captures the memories of the past 20 years of charity work and demonstration of compassion and support by individuals and organizations.
The May 9 foundation’s charity work started off to give material support to families of the Accra sports stadium disaster. However, the foundation over the years has extended its charity work to include supporting victims of fire outbreaks, flooding disasters, the physically disabled and sick children in need of medical and material assistance.
Official Recognition Finally Here
Herbert Mensah has championed the May 9 remembrance and charity activities over the past 20 years without official support or even recognition or acknowledgement from either the Ghanaian sports officials or the Ghanaian government.
However, in this 20th year, President of Ghana Nana Akufo Addo is set to give official acknowledgement to the hard and dedicated work of the May 9 foundation as it officially launches itself into a full-blown charity foundation to mark the 20 years of the Accra sports stadium disaster. ‘’This is the only President who understand sports’’ Herbert Mensah told the media ahead of a meeting of the May 9 Foundation with President Nana Akufo Addo.
Lessons Over The Years And Responsibility
When the disaster occurred 20 years ago, the government of President John Kufuor set up a committee of enquiry to investigate the cause of the incident and recommend action to government to help us learn lessons as a nation. That committee’s work amounted to naught.
It is debatable whether or not lessons have been learnt from the incident of 20 years ago without anyone paying a heavy price. Football hooliganism is still rampant in our stadia. Football officiating is still riddled with corruption and intimidation. Police have still not improved on their crowd management skills and their misuse of tear gas.
And in 20 years, no single soul has taken responsibility for the deaths of the numerous Ghanaians who simply wanted to enjoy a beautiful game of soccer on that fateful day of May 9 2001. Justice has been denied all the 126 people and their grieving families and relatives. However, the May 9 foundation has provided compassion, empathy and material support.
Gone But Not Forgotten
Ghana lost over 126 young people on May 9 2001. They are gone and never to return. But thanks to the activities of the May 9 foundation championed by Herbert Mensah, these people have never been forgotten in 20 years and will never be forgotten in the coming years. All Ghanaians must indeed embrace the day!!!
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