Why should the Team of Choice stay in Maritzburg?

2014-05-24 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL, the orphaned province of the PSL, faces the very real prospect of going into next season with only one representative in the form of Durban’s AmaZulu. Golden Arrows are relegated to the National First Division, and Maritzburg United are on the verge of becoming Port Elizabeth United, or Nelson Mandela Bay United, or something along those lines.

The NMB Municipality say that the move to PE is all but confirmed, but the club’s chairman Farouk Kadodia insists that he will only consider the offer next week. Who should we believe?

There is no doubt that, especially with the departure of Arrows, KZN desperately need Maritzburg to stay put.

The response from Msunduzi when they were made aware of the potential move was disappointing. Maritzburg are likely to lose their battle to prevent coach Steve Komphela from joining Chippa United, but nobody can fault their effort. The same fight now needs to be seen from Msunduzi to keep the Team of Choice, but I suspect that we will not see one.

I am a proud graduate of what was once a thriving junior football structure in Pietermaritzburg. The Maritzburg District Football Association (MDFA) did its best to accommodate hundreds of youngsters from U6 through to U15 week in and week out.

Pirates, Savages, Berg, Lions, Carbineers, Shamrocks and Leicester City battled it out to be the best at Alexandra Park on Saturdays, with a do-or-die five-a-side pencilled in every few Sundays at various grounds around the city. A look at those grounds today paints a bleak picture. Alexandra Park itself, Manor Grounds and the lower fields at Harry Gwala are in dire condition. United’s own head of youth development, Dan Haswell, has posted a series of photographs on his Facebook page that depict the shocking state of municipal football grounds in the city, and some of them are cringe-worthy. It gives off the impression that the sport, at whatever level, is not being taken seriously by government. Fancy that. And if there is such blatant neglect for what was once a thriving sport in the city, then what motivation should United have to stick around?

Imagine you owned the club and you faced the same dilemma. You could stay in PMB, rent Harry Gwala Stadium and pay around R9 million a year to keep the club running, or you could pack up and leave for PE where you will receive a R36 million cash injection over three years. Seems like a no-brainer, really.

KZN will be the biggest loser. Johannesburg is the hub of the PSL, where the bulk of the money and investment is. KZN has been struggling to keep up for some time, with only AmaZulu competing through their effective brand management and shrewd business dealings. They may be left to fight the good fight all alone.

Of course, we have danced this dance with Maritzburg before. In 2012 there were threats to leave for PE only for a late “change of heart” to see the club commit their future to PMB. The truth though, from what some of us understand, is that the deal only broke down because of the incompetence of the NMB Municipality and the passing of the deal through their council structures.

If the move is happening this time, it needs to happen. Don’t mess us around, don’t use this as an opportunity to plead poverty with PMB and KZN business, and don’t beat around the bush. There is absolutely no doubt that losing Maritzburg United would be devastating to KZN.

But if the club already know that they are on their way out, then they need to act with transparency and be open and honest with the public. Those who have supported the Team of Choice week in and week out over the years deserve at least that much.

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