/ 24 April 2019

Sundowns could win the league and then lose it immediately after

Sundowns are currently second on the PSL log table with 47 points
Sundowns are currently second on the PSL log table with 47 points, just three behind log leaders Orlando Pirates. (Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Even if high-flying Mamelodi Sundowns successfully defend their league title this season, they are at risk of forfeiting it immediately thereafter. The Premier Soccer League (PSL) is expected to announce sanctions against the club at the end of the season — that’s less than five games away. Sundowns were recently found guilty by the PSL of having fielded an ineligible player during their game against Bidvest Wits on October 8, a game which added in a 1-1 draw.

Sundowns allowed defender Wayne Arendse to play as a late substitute despite him not being included in the initial match-day team list handed to the match officials. By doing this, Downs contravened Rule 16.3.2 of the National Soccer League Handbook.

But the delay in issuing last week’s verdict, coupled with a possible further delay in sentencing, will most likely deter Downs’ mission of defending the league title.

Sundowns are currently second on the PSL log table with 47 points, just three behind log leaders Orlando Pirates, whose boss Irvin Khoza doubles up as PSL chairman — no, we’re not implying anything here, just pointing out facts.

This basically means that if the sanction, which would typically be a points deduction, gets issued at the end of the season, it will be too late for The Brazilians to cover the deducted points. And then the team in second place will automatically lift the trophy.

Downs coach Pitso Mosimane is however hopeful that the sanction will meted before the end of the season.

“I don’t know whether they are going to take a point because we drew (against Wits) or give Wits three points in a match that they didn’t win. A verdict will probably arrive two matches before the league finishes, so it’s a reality,” said Mosimane.

Club spokesperson Thulani Thuswa failed to respond when pressed by the Mail & Guardian on whether or not Sundowns would go the legal route should the late verdict and subsequent sanction visibly deprives the team of a league title.

PSL prosecutor Nande Becker has justified the delay and argues that Sundowns were partly responsible for the delay.”It was a complicated matter in a sense that the argument raised by Sundowns was one that required some consideration,” says Becker.

After delivering the verdict, Khoza denied that the decision to delay the issuing of the finding, and the further adjournment in the sentencing, were influenced by any bias, with his own club was also in the running for the crown.

“There’s a case in question about one club who are saying that the matter is now being heard at the end of the season because someone must get an advantage. (That’s) nonsense man,” he says.

At the end of last season, Ajax Cape Town was in a similar predicament, in a case they eventually lost at the South Gauteng High Court.

Right at the end of the season, they were found to have contravened Fifa rules by fielding Tendai Ndoro, who at the time, had played for at least three clubs in that campaign.

Fifa rules stipulate that a player cannot play for more than two clubs in a season, and Ndoro had already played for Pirates, Saudi Arabian side Al Faisaly and Ajax.

Ajax fielded him against Platinum Stars, Polokwane City, SuperSport United, Cape Town City and Orlando Pirates, and all results from those games were declared loses, a blow that saw Ajax being docked nine points. And because Ajax at the time finished 13th on the table, the points deducted saw them eventually losing their PSL status.

But Khoza insists it is not altogether the fault of the league.

“In some cases, clubs ask for postponements. The clubs get further legal minds and they want certain particulars. Every club has a right to be given an opportunity when they ask for postponement. All postponements are discussed and are agreed afterwards with the prosecutor,” Khoza explained.