SOCCER: Ray Nxumalo
A WHISTLEMAN who has lost the respect of players and officials is not worthy of officiating at a game whose result may endanger lives of spectators, the players themselves and further tarnish the image of a game so bedevilled by scandals.
The image of soccer is soiled in the eyes of spectators; we have officials allegedly involved in car-theft rackets, claims of referees being on the payroll of certain clubs and prominent administrators who deal in and take white powder as well as other mind-impairing drugs. There was also the shooting incident inside First National Bank stadium — the headquarters of football — involving an official of the now defunct Dangerous Darkies.
It is time for a clean administration and for all forms of corruption to be weeded out. Unless this is achieved the spectators will not come to fill our grounds. For they have a suspicion that certain games are fixed and such fears cannot be easily brushed aside.
The devolution of powers and allocation of duties also leave a lot to be desired. Before the infamous 1985 soccer split, the catch phrase that was punted around was that former National Professional Soccer League strongman George Thabe held too many poweful positions.
Today, one cannot help but notice that the very selfsame well-meaning member of the powerful trio who ousted Thabe is himself wearing more hats than Thabe.
No matter how bad they may paint the NPSL, one thing stands out: there was no corruption on the scale as endemic to the NSL and there were not as many cover-ups as we have today. The in-fighting and backstabbing in the NSL can only lead to the demise of the soccer as many people are switching allegiance to other sporting codes.
A lot of people are complaining about the so-called practice of “cheque-book” soccer. Many articles appeared in the press highlighting the practice of bribing referees. Who has ever been punished?
Problems occur on the field, too. We believe referee Ian MacLeod is a man of integrity. But one is forced to ask: Why is there always crowd trouble in matches he handles?
Remember the Rand stadium debacle when Jeff Butler, then Kaizer Chiefs coach, stormed onto the pitch and kicked the ball away from David Nyathi, then playing for arch-rivals Orlando Pirates? Macleod took no action, saying he was avoiding a riot.
Then there was last year’s Bob-Save Superbowl semi-final fiasco involving Chiefs, Pirates and MacLeod. It is now history that too little time was played and that MacLeod was unconstitutionally appointed to officiate at that game.
Just last week at Tembisa, when Pirates played Aces, the situation got so out of hand that we saw Aces’ Adam Mabena landing a vicious blow and cutting Innocent Buthelezi’s nose. What action followed thereafter? From where I was positioned none that was consistent with the gravity of the offence.
It was a sad and shameful day for soccer when seats at the FNB stadium were set alight. To ensure that a similar or worse incident — like the Orkney tragedy — does not happen again, the whole administration of the NSL needs to be revamped and referees must refrain from doing certain clubs favours. That is killing the game.