Boardroom sullies PSL

Everything is at stake in the final weekend of the Premier Soccer League (PSL). From first to last, no one knows what fate has in store for them. Heck, even Maritzburg United, who only won their second game in February, have a realistic chance of escaping the drop.

Saturday should be the massive pay-off football fans deserve after a long season. An afternoon spent furiously switching between channels, calculating all the permutations every five minutes. An occasion to savour the ecstasy of the champions, sympathise with the relegated. It’s days like these that make sitting on the cold steps of Bidvest Stadium on a random Tuesday night all worth it.

In many ways we’ll get that. It’s just a pity we have to keep one eye on the boardroom as we build up to gameday.The PSL, tapping into its infinite wisdom, has decided to appeal against its own ruling on the Sundowns-Wayne Arendse matter. It disagrees with its disciplinary committee’s suggestion last week that a fine for both club and player (suspended in his case) is sufficient punishment. For the uninitiated, the Brazilians were charged for fielding Arendse after he wasn’t named in the initial match-day18 in a game against Bidvest Wits back in October. The game ended 1-1.

PSL structures believe it would be unfair on Wits not to correct the result and have called for it to be declared a 3-0 forfeit in their favour. They also want Arendse to receive a two-match ban (the player getting punished at all for following a coach’s instructions seems a bit silly).

This, of course, could have ramifications for the top of the log. Mercifully, for our sanity and the dignity of the game, it shouldn’t matter ifSundowns beat Free State Stars. With 56 points compared with Orlando Pirates’ 54, having a point docked won’t take their destiny out of their hands. But what if they lose? All of a sudden a draw would be enough for Bucs to bring the league trophy back to Soweto.

Then there’s Wits. In theory, two points gained puts them right back into the title race. If both of their rivals fail to win, they’ll ascend to the top. Just like that. They also now have a realistic chance of pipping both of those above them into the Champions League spots.

The Students, to their great credit, have shown no interest in pushing for such a situation.“I don’t know about that … I mean I know about it but it’s got nothing to do with me,” coach Gavin Hunt said on the sidelines of a training session back in March. “If someone broke the rules then what must happen must happen;it’s got nothing to do with us, we didn’t protest or anything.

“We don’t worry about that;we can’t worry about that. You look at South African football;there’s too many boardrooms over the years.”

That this boardroom is interfering at this moment is particularly frustrating. Sundowns aren’t necessarily victims, either. It’seasy to forget, in the haze of Irvin Khoza conspiracies, that Masandawana themselves played their part in ensuring the original disciplinary hearing was delayed for as long as possible. If we were pessimistic, we might suggest it was a deliberate strategy to foster an “us-versus-them” mentality and win publicsympathy. “Jingles”, of course, would never stray from his line of defiance.

“This season is not the one that I am going to run around with the trophy and get excited about if we win, because I don’t understand what is happening,” coach Pitso Mosimane was quoted as responding to the news by Sowetan.

“Really‚ what is happening? It is unbelievable that there is one round of matches left in the season and we are still talking about this thing.I have said my part and I am now focusing on the pitch because I don’t want to be the coach who is always fighting with people. I have created a lot of enemies and I don’t need this.”

At the end of the day, everyone involved has let down the football fan. Arendse has played 14 league matches in his seventh year at the club. How fielding him in a routine game came to be such an issue is unfathomable. Between the initial registration mishap and the league’s latest reaction, the entire situation is not in keeping with common sense.

If we’relucky, this will all be waved away soon after you read this on Friday. Most likely, though, you should save space on your plate this Super Saturday for a side of bureaucracy. 

Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham runs the Mail & Guardian's sports desk. He was previously the online day editor.

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