A key rivalry football match between Highlanders FC and Dynamos FC in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe descended into violence both on and off the field on Sunday. At the historic Barbourfields Stadium, fans grew incensed with controversial refereeing decisions and threw objects onto the pitch. This forced an early abandonment of the match in the 37th minute.
According to reports, two penalty appeals for Highlanders were denied, angering their supporters. Missiles then rained down from the Soweto End stands occupied by Highlanders fans. A supporter was also stretchered off after being hit. With chaos erupting, police fired tear smoke in an attempt to control the crowds. Both sets of fans had invaded the field as fighting broke out.
The violence spilled over outside the stadium grounds as well. Police confirmed that three people were stabbed in clashes between rival fan groups. Unconfirmed reports also indicated cars may have been set alight during the disturbances as police struggled to contain the unrest.
Prior to the fan violence halting the highly-anticipated match, Dynamos had jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to early goals by Keith Madera and Frank Makarati. But what looked poised to be a exciting contest between the fierce rivals was marred by unsafe conditions brought on by the disorderly conduct of some attendees. An investigation is underway to process the events and those responsible could face legal consequences.
Violence has no place in football and overshadowed what should have been a celebration of the beautiful game between two of Zimbabwe’s biggest clubs. All involved will be hoping future editions of this storied derby can be decided solely by the action on the pitch.