Since the days of the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) in the 1970s, National Soccer League (NSL) in the 1980s and Premier Soccer League (PSL) from 1996, the end of season has meant that the football circus is back in town.
Since 1971 when the NPSL came into being, it has been a sure bet that once the league title race hits the home straight and the dogfight to avoid relegation intensifies, all sorts of shenanigans ensue.
A number of annoying things are guaranteed to beset the game at this stage of the season.
These include an increase in the number of protests lodged with match officials and the league as well as the intensification of referees’ criticism.
Just this past week, we had two Absa Premiership club coaches – Cape Town City’s Benni McCarthy and his Chippa United counterpart Clinton Larsen – have a full blowout at the men in the middle.
McCarthy’s vitriol was aimed at poor Eugene Mdluli following his side’s hard-earned 1-all draw against Highlands Park on Tuesday night.
While accepting that Kermit Erasmus deserved a red card for his “stupid” lashing out at an opponent, McCarthy had some unsavoury words for Mdluli.
“From the first minute, you watch and it’s the same referee every single time. Every time we get him. Against Wits, he gave them a penalty and apologised after that. Every time they want to apologise for the sh*t that they put on the pitch,” he burst out. He added: “You can’t even talk or ask why they give certain decisions. I’m like a joke now, man.”
And then totally threw his toys out of the cot: “I’ll rather take myself out of the equation because it’s not worth coaching when you have to suffer every single time like tonight.”
One felt like saying, cool down Benni! It’s not the end of the world. Every coach gets the short end of the stick once in a while and, as referees are human, they are bound to make mistakes sometimes.
Larsen’s contribution to this attack after his side’s 2-1 loss to Mamelodi Sundowns was “Close but not close enough for me. What was disappointing, I was just told by one of the match officials that there were three handballs inside the box, but none of them warranted a penalty, so that’s disappointing.”
The referee in that particular game was the no-nonsense Victor Gomes.
One of the complaints we are told has been lodged with the league, is about how NFD side Royal Eagles have been getting “dubious” penalties of late.
According to the complainants, this is one of the reasons the KwaZulu-Natal side has made a dramatic climb up the log and even unseated Stellenbosch briefly last weekend, before the latter’s victory over TS Galaxy on Tuesday night took them back to the plateau.
Also, this week the PSL disciplinary committee (DC) had a change in tack as they swiftly dealt with two cases involving Bloemfontein Celtic and Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila.
The DC that has proven to be toothless while perfecting the art of dilly-dallying in the past acted with lightning speed – which is what some of us have been calling for – and found Celtic “guilty on charges of failing to provide adequate security and causing the abandonment of the Absa Premiership fixture against Cape Town City” last week.
They also immediately issued a sanction, ordering “that the match be forfeited to Cape Town City FC with a 3-0 score” and that Celtic’s remaining two home matches be played outside the Free State Province “at venues to be determined by the League”.
The Venda-based NFD side, Tshakhuma, were charged “with contravening NSL Handbook Rules” during their match against TS Sporting last Saturday and the matter was set down for hearing this past Friday.
Why the DC is still sitting with a matter that happened in October and why they couldn’t act as swiftly on all the matters before them, boggles the mind.
The message is clear: Football authorities need to be decisive in order to save football-loving people from this scourge of having so many distractions at the end of every season.
The PSL DC showed this week that it can be done. Consistency must be the norm.
NB: In my opinion pieces around the Mamelodi Sundowns/Wayne Arendse matter, I have never delved into the merits and demerits of the case. My beef has always been the length of the period it has taken for this matter to be finalised, which is now six months.