Since they started keeping records in the late 19th century, there have been nearly 200 players who have died while playing professional or amateur soccer around the world — among them one who collided with a concrete barrier, and two who were struck by lightning. But never before, as far as we can tell, has a player been killed by a fan during a match.
That changed on Saturday as Cameroon player Albert Ebossé, 24, was struck and killed by a projectile thrown by a fan immediately following his JS Kabylie team’s game in the Algerian league. It happened in Tizi Ouzou, in north central Algeria, as Ebossé was walking off the field after a 2-1 loss to USM Alger. According to at least one report, Ebossé was hit by a rock thrown by one of his team’s own supporters.
The Confederation of African Football has opened an investigation and is already calling for “tough sanctions”, although what that actually means isn’t clear. Does it mean matches in empty stadiums? Metal screens separating fans and players? A moat around the entire city?
CAF president Issa Hayatou had this to say early today:
“My thoughts go out to the family and friends of this young man who enjoyed his job peacefully and went further to pursue his passion for football abroad.
“African football cannot be the breeding ground for hooliganism whatsoever. We expect exemplary sanctions to be taken against this grave act of violence.”
We in the U.S. have our share of fans who are disgruntled at their own team and players — usually it takes the form of burning jerseys, or simple creative heckling. But only in foreign soccer, it seems, is the potential for actual violence a real looming threat.
Because, what, there isn’t enough violence out there in the real world to keep people occupied? Or, some people just want to see the world burn? I’m mystified.