Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Relegated AmaZulu cough up R82m to replace Aces in the PSL: another nail in the coffin of South African football

USUTHU! anxious AmaZulu fans
DESPICABLE. DISGRACEFUL. DISASTROUS. Those are the words that come to mind as we sit here tonight, contemplating a footballing world where a relegated club can simply buy their way back in to the top flight after finishing bottom of the table.

The irony for me, of course, is that it's my favourite PSL club AmaZulu who are attempting to burgle their way back in to South Africa's crumbling PSL via the back door, using cash and an utter disregard for what FIFA calls "sporting integrity".

AmaZulu are not one of those recently formed infant clubs like Choppa, sorry Chippa, United, who sack coaches and move cities at the drop of a hat.

The jolly green giants of KwaZulu Natal captured my support when I worked and played in Durban in the early 1980s. The warcry "USUTHU" combined with the glamour of players like Joel Faya and Henry "Shaka Zulu" Cele persuaded me to write to their kit manafacturers to procure the last available xxxl replica shirt just last year.

Article 30 of the NSL constitution clearly states promotion
CANNOT be bought (from @TiisetsoMalepa)
But what they are doing is simply WRONG. To pay Mpumalanga Black Aces R82m (amounts vary) to take their place in the PSL as well as five or six of their players CANNOT BE RIGHT for South African football.

They did it once before of course. In 2007, they bought Dynamos' PSL place after relegation, and in those grim days such ridiculous shenanigans appeared acceptable practice.

But then came the FIFA circular number 1132 from Jerome Valcke, dated December 2007. Under the heading SPORTING INTEGRITY, PRINCIPLES OF PROMOTION AND RELEGATION, the despicable loophole was firmly closed.

Quoting article 2 (e) of the FIFA statutes, Valcke re-iterated the view that promotion and relegation were sacrosanct, that the global association exists to "prevent all methods or practices which might jeopardise the integrity of matches or competitions, or give rise to the abuse of association football."

In Spain, weeks before, Granada had purchased another club's name and identity in order to secure promotion, a move of such sporting injustice that FIFA felt they had to act,

The most important part of the new regulations? "A club's entitlement to take part in a domestic league championship shall depend principally on sporting merit".

It goes on to insist ONLY promotion and relegation ON THE FIELD OF PLAY would be acceptable.

The full link to that FIFA document, signed by the now-embattled Jerome Valcke, can be found HERE http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/affederation/administration/circular_1132_en_34078.pdf

But of course, Irvin Khoza has been in charge of our PSL since the early 1990s. Quite how that happened, or how he came to be owner and chairman of Orlando Pirates remains shrouded in mystery. And boy, are we paying for it.

When AmaZulu went down in 16th and last place at the end of last season claiming Free State Stars had "fixed" their salvation, Khoza said nothing. His CEO Brand de Villiers muttered something about an "ongoing investigation" in to Free State Stars' remarkable escape from the lower reaches of the PSL. We've heard nothing since.

Then, when AmaZulu (and relegated bed-fellows Moroka Swallows) were charging about trying to persuade Bloemfontein Celtic, Polokwane City, Platinum Stars and Chippa United to sell their PSL status, Khoza said NOTHING. Neither did sports minister Fikile Mbalula, always so loud and pointless on other sporting subjects, nor Danny Jordaan, the president of the South African Football Association, now unelected mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay.

Throughout the build-up to this craziness, South African football failed to show leadership. Already in trouble over pre-World Cup match-fixing and the infamous $10m African Diaspora Fund, presumably they had other things to talk about. Like how our national football team didn't have enough players to field a team 24 hours before the clash with Mauritius at Dobsonville, or why it took nearly a year to appoint Neil Tovey as our Technical Director though he was always the only viable candidate.

And in to this awful mess, with PSL attendances slipping to record lows and the transfer market crumbling in to a slew of free transfers, bonuses for agents and contract non-renewals, AmaZulu's dreadful attempt at resurrection apparently makes barely a ripple.

But consider this, if the move goes ahead:

1 Will anybody bother to watch the "relegation dog-fight" next season if they know the side struggling to survive can simply buy their way back in?

2 If Spar's best buddy Patrick Sokhela, the AmaZulu owner, has R45m (or more, R82m according to certain reports) to spend, WHY DIDN'T HE BUY A FEW PLAYERS and avoid relegation rather than spending nothing and changing coaches three times as they slipped through the trap door?

3 What of the Aces' fans who loyally supported their club - the only PSL franchise in Mpumalanga - throughout last season? Do they get their money back now they find themselves supporting an NFD club? Will the Mbombela Stadium survive?

4 Turkish coach Muhsin Etrugral, who started pre-season before any other club in the PSL, now finds himself preparing for a season in the PSL without his top players (at least five have been told they must now move to Durban and play for AmaZulu in the PSL next season) is he REALLY going to meekly accept this deal?

5 Given Bafana Bafana's awful form - one point in AFCON2015, two penalty shoot-out failures in CONSAFA and a 0-0 draw against Africa's smallest nation Gambia to kick-off AFCON2017 qualifying - shouldn't we be considering spending money on players and creating better teams rather than buying promotion? 

What AmaZulu are doing amounts to a betrayal of South African football; the easy way out, the last-minute Iron Duke style of doing things. Instead of spending millions on fighting relegation, bringing in better players, offering bigger win bonuses, Sokhela sees fit to sack coaches and splash millions purely for status. It can't be right.

Our only hope, surely, is that FIFA or CAF will step in to make sure such a deal CANNOT happen. Sporting integrity will NOT be ground in to the dust. Sadly, given the state of both our continental and world footballing bodies, I won't be holding my breath.


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