Light at the end of the tunnel

2008-06-11 00:00

THERE is light at the end of the tunnel for Maritzburg United in the ongoing saga of the FC AK bribery case, which has delayed the National First Division [NFD] play-off final.

The FC AK arbitration was heard on Tuesday night and the arbitrator, Hilton Epstein, will deliver his verdict this coming Tuesday.

It now appears possible that the provisional dates given by the PSL to United of June 24 or 25 and June 28 or 29 for the home-and-away play-off final might be adhered to.

Premier Soccer League (PSL) chief executive Kjetil Siem confirmed yesterday that the arbitration will finally come to an end on Tuesday.

“The arbitrator decided he needed one week to put together his verdict,” Siem told The Witness.

“It appears the play-off final is on track for the dates we gave to the clubs. The only thing is the clubs will have to wait until Tuesday to find out who they will play against.”

United were originally to have played FC AK in the play-off final for promotion to the PSL on May 10 and 17. However the protracted case against FC AK, who were found guilty of bribery and corruption by the PSL’s disciplinary committee on April 30, has left the play-offs suspended indefinitely.

AK owner Azziz Kara was fined R500 000 and banned from soccer for 30 years, and the club expelled to the Vodacom second division. In the appeal the club was reinstated to the NFD but docked 15 points to be in second-last place, and Kara’s ban extended to life.

Unconfirmed speculation is that Kara might have succeeded in his quest to keep his team in the play-off final. According to the national organiser of the South African Football Players Union, Cappy Matutoane, talk from the arbitration hearing is that FC AK will be allowed to participate in the play-offs.

“It looks like the guilty verdict will still stand, but certain PSL rules may come into play, whereby points will be deducted from FC AK but they will still qualify for the play-offs. But nothing definite has been decided on yet,” Matutoane told Kickoff.com.

FC AK finished the Inland Stream on 37 points (with a goal difference of +2), six points clear of second-placed Dynamos on 31 (GD +9).

Maritzburg United coach Ian Palmer, whose team has not played a competitive match since winning the Coastal Stream with a 3-1 victory over Durban Stars on April 12, said it has been very difficult to motivate his players in training.

“When you don’t have a date for the play-off, it is very difficult to motivate the guys,” Palmer said. “And the players have been given weekends off here and there, so now we need to get the fitness levels up again, so it really has broken our momentum.”

Palmer said that, despite this, the spirit in the camp is still high, though he has concerns for the club for next season should they be promoted.

“You can’t expect players to have a week off and then begin their preparations for a PSL season. They will have to be given more time off and United will just have to start their preparations later than everyone else.

“And we can’t think yet about signing players for the new season until we know for sure we will be going up.”

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