Mr. Herbert Mensah, Chairman of Kumasi Asante Kotoko at the time of the Africa’s biggest recorded stadium disaster on May 9, 2001 at the Accra Sports Stadium, has called on all Ghanaians to “embrace the day”, not only in solidarity with the 126 fallen heroes who died on that day, but in a call for responsibility, discipline and respect in all matters related to sports.
May 9 disaster occurred during a match between Ghana’s two most successful football teams, Accra Hearts of Oak Sporting Club, and Kumasi Asante Kotoko.
Trouble had been anticipated, and extra security measures had been taken. The home side scored two late goals to defeat Kotoko 2–1, which led to disappointed Kotoko fans throwing plastic seats and bottles onto the pitch.
The response to this crowd disturbance from the police was to fire tear gas into the crowd. Panic ensued, resulting in a stampede that led to the deaths from compressive asphyxia of 126 people.
Since that tragic day in 2001, a group of philanthropists under the leadership of Herbert Mensah, supported by various individuals and companies in Ghana, and religiously remembered the day with a series of events.
According to Mensah, “the message of May 9th is both a call for responsibility and a call to make the most of every day that God has given you.”
The 2017 theme of “Embrace the Day” was conceived from the stark reality of that dark and tragic day of 9 May 2001 when 126 young football fans did not plan to die that day. “We can’t predict the future and do not know what tomorrow holds for us. May 9th Remembered is a call for responsibility to all, but it is also a call to embrace every day and use the talents God has given us to create a better future for the generations that will follow us,” Mensah said.
In one of the highlights of the 2017 May 9th Remembered activities, Mr. Mensah and a section of the families of the victims of May 9th were invited to the Manhyia Palace by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, as part of his birthday celebrations.
In his remarks at the Manhyia Palace, Mr. Mensah lauded the Asantehene for his key roles in the transformation of sports in the country.
Mr. Mensah commended Otumfuo for his wise counsel to him (Herbert) on the day that the May 9 stadium disaster occurred. “I remember that day, Otumfuo was the first person that I called and he told me to be courageous”, the ex-Kotoko chairman told the gathering.
The 2017 May 9th Remembered events also included a visit to the Central Mosque in Kumasi where the Ashanti Regional Chief Imam, Sheikh Abdul Mumin Haruun, led prayers that also asked Allah to bless and protect Mensah and all those who selflessly and regularly, without fail, remember and celebrate that tragic day 16 years ago.