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banner Monday, 7 January, 2002, 13:16 GMT
BBC man's Ninian nightmare
Cardiff fans invaded the pitch at the end of the game
Cardiff fans invaded the pitch at the end of the game
BBC Radio Five Live's Jonathan Overend, who was forcibly ejected from Ninian Park on Sunday, reflects on his worst day of watching football.

This was my first visit to Ninian Park and it will undoubtedly be my last.

Witnessing mindless missile-throwing at close quarters and then being bundled out of the ground by a security man doing his worst nightclub bouncer impression left me cold.

I also feel a certain amount of despair, because I thought British football had made progress since the dark days of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

People got hurt inside Ninian Park on Sunday and many Leeds fans spent the afternoon fearing for their safety rather than enjoying a classic Cup tie.

Sam Hammam
Cardiff chairman Hammam defended Cardiff's fans
Those facts are enough to require that the authorities demand answers from those in positions of power at Cardiff City.

Nobody can dispute that it was a fantastic result for the Bluebirds - one of their best ever - and well worth celebrating.

But someone had to answer for the constant missile-throwing, the hostility toward visiting fans and the proliferation of alcohol bottles inside the ground.

I was invited into Sam Hammam's office to record an interview at the end of the match.

I gave him a number of opportunities to condemn the behaviour of some sections of his supporters but he felt they deserved to celebrate their moment of joy.

He preferred to blame sections of the English media for their attitude toward the Welsh.

I constantly challenged him on this point but he continued repeating it.


I was grabbed by the coat by a security man and forced out of the ground, the wrought iron gates of Ninian Park slamming shut behind me like a prison cell door
Jonathan Overend
When I tried to steer the conversation on to different matters he once again returned to his argument about media attitudes.

When I interjected again he made it clear that one more interuption would mean the end of the interview.

So as a final question, I changed tack and asked him why he went behind the goal for the final 10 minutes and if that stirred the crowd up even more.

His answer was the same as he had given four times before and, not in any mood to be bullied over the direction of an interview, I challenged him to answer the question.

At that point, he left his office and returned with two security men.

They ripped my minidisc recorder from my hand and ushered me down the tunnel in full view of the teams, Leeds boss David O'Leary and other members of the media.

Once outside I was grabbed by the coat by another security man and forced out of the ground, the wrought iron gates of Ninian Park slamming shut behind me like a prison cell door.


It was an extraordinary day and one I never believed I would experience covering football
Jonathan Overend
Ten minutes later the minidisc recorder was returned, but the actual disc had been removed.

The BBC is currently trying to get it returned although it was suggested last night that it may have been destroyed.

A further twist came when my BBC colleague Ian Brown, a lifelong Cardiff fan, was also ejected from the ground for asking for the tape back.

He also witnessed the stand-up row between Hammam and O'Leary, conducted in full view of the general public.

It was an extraordinary day and one I never believed I would experience covering football.

I was made to feel like the mindless thug a few yards away from me who flung a coin at referee Andy D'Urso.

I was ejected, that yob probably wasn't. He'll be back for more next week no doubt.

My lasting impression is that my one day at Cardiff goes down as the worst day in my football-watching life.

Is this the image Cardiff want to project to visitors to Ninian Park? If so, they, and sections of their fans, are going about it the right way.

Links to more FA Cup stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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