BY JOHN EGBOKHAN
Rangers International of Enugu have said they were held hostage for two hours in their bus by rampaging and riotous fans of Wikki Tourist in Bauchi last Sunday.
Recounting their ordeal during the Nigerian Premier League game that ended 1-1, a top official of the Flying Antelopes told Sports Vanguard that they were subjected to inhumane treatment by the home fans, who vented their rage on the visitors at the end of the game.
The Rangers official, who pleaded anonymity. said that signs of the bad things to come started to manifest on 40 minutes, when some restive fans threw stones into the field, with one hitting the assistant referee, who fell down but was quickly rushed up by Rangers duo of Okey Odita and Osas Okoro.
‘’That incident caused the centre referee to momentarily stop the game as the fans had become restive because their team were being held to a draw. In fact, we scored first and they equalised. The atmosphere was very tense as the fans became agitated. Even when he decided to continue with the first half, the situation did not abate but respite soon came as he blew to end the first half.
‘’When we went for the break, it took so long for the game to start because of the state of security in the stadium. We even wrote a protest letter to the LMC on why the game should be suspended at that stage. There was palpable fear for the safety of the players and travelling contingent and it was almost some minutes to 6pm that the second half started, under floodlight. The game finished 1-1 but soon after, the fans poured into the pitch to attack us.
‘’They pursued us into the dressing room. It was chaotic. Even when we rushed into one of our buses, they surrounded it, pelting us with stones and it took the intervention of some operatives to escort us out of the stadium but those fans still followed us. The other bus carrying our players was not that so lucky as they shattered its windscreens’’, added the Rangers man
While calling on the LMC to mete out punitive measures on the perpetrators of the violence in Bauchi, the unnamed official warned that teams from the south may push for a separate league for southern teams because of the violent nature of northern fans.
‘’We thank God that no life was lost but we are seriously considering shunning playing against teams from the north as their grounds are not safe for us. We cannot players safety at risk by playing in the north. Enough is enough’’, he said.