UCD AFC’s summer tour to Africa in 1980 was one which saw the college soccer club make the national headlines for all the wrong reasons at home. The tour would be remembered primarily for events in Khartoum, where a riot broke out in a stadium packed with 30,000 Sudanese fans. They had come to watch Merikh take on the Dubliners, and a goal from UCD was enough to send them into riot mode.
The UCD summer tour of 1980 was originally planned to just take on Kenyan opposition. The Sudan Football Association approached the side in the days leading up to their planned trip however, and as such the trip was extended to include fixtures there. Kenyan side Abaluhya were first up against the students on July 30th. UCD would play six games in Kenya. They came out on top once, drew twice and lost three times.
The match on August 14 1980 in Khartoum had been tense from very early on, as the captain of the local side had been sent off for a bad foul. From that point on the Irish squad were pelted with stones and bottles. Dr. Tony O’Neill, manager of the students, told The Irish Press however that it was not until the students scored soon afterwards that all hell broke loose. David Cassidy was the goal scorer.
The crowd seemed to go mad. They take their soccer very seriously here, and but for the timely intervention of the security forces to protect us the scene would have become very nasty indeed. When the police moved in, brandishing machine guns and throwing tear gas into the crowd to disperse them, our players were escorted to their dressing room and afterwards back to the Hilton Hotel.
The referee was hospitalised as a result of the crowd trouble. Following the clash referees in Sudan would strike demanding greater protection during games, where such clashes had occurred before. Unsurprisingly, UCD cancelled their final planned game in Sudan! UCD’s next clash was away to Drogheda United in the League Cup. They crashed out three nil, and there was no violent disorder.