The South African Football Association (SAFA) has condemned “hooliganism and thuggery” following a play-off match where gun shots were fired in Pietermaritzburg.
Orbit College secured promotion to the second tier of South African football with a 1-0 win against Umsinga United in their ABC Motsepe play-offs semi-final on Friday.
Trouble flared after the match with security forces firing shots into the air following gunfire and objects thrown during a pitch invasion.
SAFA President Danny Jordaan told SABC Sport news the punishment must fit the crime.
“What has happened is totally out of of order, it is to be rejected and condemned,” he said. “The perpetrators and guilty parties must be dealt with harshly, but we must wait for the report.”
Colonel Robert Netshiunda of KwaZulu-Natal police said they were treating the case as attempted murder.
“We don’t have a time frame but by the time we make arrests we should have enough evidence,” he added.
“There were so many people in the stadium so for us to locate who could have fired the shots is not an easy thing to do. The investigation in ongoing.
“Parents have given us their kids, so they’re worried. Imagine if tomorrow they say ‘your child is dead, he’s been shot at the national play-offs’,” Orbit coach Pogiso Makhoye told SABC.
Africa’s sports governing body, the Confederation of African Football, (CAF) also recently condemned a spate of violent incidents at stadia across Africa.
The latest incident comes as a blow to South Africa in their bid to host the 2027 Women’s World Cup.
Footage of the events emerged on social media after Friday’s game at the Harry Gwala Stadium – the home of South Africa Premier Division side Maritzburg United which was used as a training base for Paraguay during the 2010 World Cup.
Objects were hurled onto the field during post-match interviews and warm-downs and a pitch invasion then ensued with gunshots heard ringing around the stadium.
Various fans at the game captured the images which also showed a member of the security operation at the stadium hiding behind advertising boards.
A colleague is then seen to retreat towards his position while firing back over the heads of the pitch invaders.
‘It’s very worrying’
Orbit coach Makhoye added: “We don’t expect this, especially from football. They are messing up the beautiful football that we displayed here.
“We were very worried because we were risking our lives here. I hope SAFA can organise these tournaments better, especially in terms of security. This is worse. We can’t expect this, it’s very worrying.
“I hope SAFA can learn from what happened. This is our moment – we should be celebrating this moment.
“These are schoolkids, they should be writing exams. Now they’re here, imagine if one of them got shot, the parents send their children to school, imagine if they had been shot while they should be at school writing exams right now.”
SAFA described the scenes as “chaotic”.
“We have asked security and the referee for a full report and we will prioritise the investigation into this incident,” it said in a statement.
“We will vigorously pursue this matter and any individual or club that is found to be guilty will be banned for these senseless acts. Such hooliganism has no place in football.”
Earlier in the day on the same ground, Upington City secured promotion in the first semi-final, beating Mpheni Home Defenders of Limpopo 3-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw.
The final, between the two promoted teams, saw Upington beat Orbit 3-1 on Sunday. Both teams will line up in the Championship next season.