André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
Jamaica Football Feder-ation (JFF) president Captain Horace Burrell is calling for greater understanding from, the few hundred supporters who, in their excitement, jumped the bleachers fences of the National Stadium to celebrate with Jamaica's players following their historic 2-1 win over the US in their FIFA World Cup qualifier on Friday.
Burrell, who said he was not expecting any sanctions from the world's governing body FIFA since there was no risk or danger involved, underlined, however, that the JFF condemns the actions of the group and will be taking steps to educate the public about the possible implications.
Jamaica secured an emotional 2-1 win over their North American rivals, their first in 19 attempts, to take a three-point lead in their qualifying group, triggering wanton excitement inside the venue and leading some spectators to run across the football field in an attempt to congratulate the players after the referee had sounded his whistle signalling the end of the game.
no ill intent
Burrell, though mindful that there was no ill intent, was left red-faced and quite unimpressed, warning, too, that such actions could cause serious damage to the football field and running track.
"This is something that has been happening at (Boys and Girls') Champs and other events where, in a celebratory mood, the supporters in the bleachers come across. It will damage the field and it must not be allowed. I know it happens at other events, but at football that is not permitted because of safety reasons and so on," Burrell told The Sunday Gleaner. "So we will ask our spectators to desist from doing so."
The former army man said that his administration will be creating a public awareness campaign on the dangers of such practices, to ensure that there is no repeat in the future.
"It's a practice, a bad one that I have noticed at track meets and so on, where overexuberant spectators, in celebration, run from one side of the stadium to the next in droves, and this will not be allowed. In the future, we will ask them to desist and not do this anymore. We will ensure that we properly advise the spectators, because it has never happened before, but I guess they were excited having beaten the US for the first time. But again, it is a practice that should never be condoned," Burrell underlined.
There was a similar situation however, back in November 1997, when Jamaica qualified for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, after a 1-1 draw with Mexico here in Kingston.
not a violent crowd
Nonetheless, football matches at the National Stadium have largely taken place without problems and Burrell is hopeful that his bosses at FIFA will be understanding in this case.
"It was not a violent crowd, it was all done in celebration and also because it's a practice from other sports, which we will not condone for football. So I certainly hope it will be viewed along those lines. I am sure that when the spectators are educated on the possible implications from events like this, they will understand," Burrell said.
"Let me reiterate, though, that it was not a violent crowd or a crowd with any such intentions. They just wanted to come across and congratulate their heroes, but the point must be made clear that we will not condone it for football and it should and will not happen again," Burrell added.
FIFA has in the past handed down fines to several national bodies for similar offences.