The beautiful game - soccer - is universally revered and its ‘beauty’ within the South African context has continued to manifest itself in the manner in which the sport has time and again brought South Africans together.
Euphoria and comradery prevailed after Bafana Bafana won their first and only Africa Cup of Nations in 1996 – after only being readmitted to the international scene a few years before.
The same spirit of friendship and community engulfed the nation when South Africa, what could count as a sporting coup, became the first African country to host the prestigious Fifa world cup in 2010.
Fast-forward eight years later and currently the sport is marred by legal battles, a leadership more concerned with personal glory and a national team constituted by a group of players concerned more about their hairstyles, huge egos and salaries than they are about representing their country with pride.
With the World Cup in Russia done and dusted most South African soccer lovers were undoubtedly looking forward to reverting their attentions to our domestic football.
Standing before this unbridled desire to watch our local heroes was Ajax Cape Town’s application for an urgent interdict to stop the league from starting as scheduled on the first weekend of August.
The Cape Town side applied for the interdict after the PSL applied for leave to appeal Judge Denis Fisher’s judgement on the case involving former Ajax striker Tendai Ndoro’s eligibility.
On July 2, Fisher set aside advocate William Mokhari’s ruling - which saw Ajax relegated to the National First Division - and ordered that the matter must be taken to Fifa’s Player Status Committee.
Following this ruling - the PSL’s Iron Duke - Irvin Khoza, held a press conference criticising the former Urban Warriors striker Ndoro of not checking his status before signing for the Cape club and that the chaos that has put the start of the 2018-19 season into serious doubt would have been avoided.
The finality with which the Iron Duke expressed these sentiments was fascinating, especially when one takes into consideration that he is the chairperson of the PSL whose body - the Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) - along with Safa’s arbitrators and Fifa’s Player Status Committee threw the case among each other like a hot potato, until Mokhari finally passed judgment.
Instead of passing the blame on to Ndoro, the PSL in particular should be doing most of the accounting.
Ndoro made his debut for Ajax Cape Town against Platinum Stars on January 12, and the PSL made the club aware of the possible illegality that would come with fielding the player.
However, the PSL’s own independent body, the DRC, granted Ajax leeway to field the player after the club took the matter to the body.
Two bodies, one organisation, zero understanding
The lack of decisiveness and understanding between the PSL and its own dispute committee showed in part that either one or both of these bodies lacked true comprehension of the rules of the game.
Had both the PSL and the DRC fully understood Fifa’s rule on what steps ought to be taken if a player appears for more than two clubs in one season, they would have come to an amicable ruling and avoided the tipping point to this whole saga brought about by these two bodies belonging to one organisation having handing down polar opposite decisions.
This seems like déjà vu, reminding most soccer enthusiasts of Bafana Bafana’s embarrassing 2011 premature celebration in which the team celebrated qualifying for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations while, in fact, the team had missed out thanks to an oversight in the Bafana Bafana coaching set-up, as they had misread the terms of qualification.
It showed then - as it is still the case now - that no one within the local footballing governing bodies is big on reading the rules that govern the beautiful game and decisively upholding them.
If there were individuals appointed to study and enforce the rules of the game, the PSL would have avoided these embarrassing incidents.
“It’s all Ndoro’s fault”
Khoza’s criticism of Ndoro itself threw a spanner in the works.
The PSL under the Iron Duke is challenging the judgement by Fisher ordering Ajax Cape Town’s matter to be taken to Fifa’s Player Status Committee, basically overturning Mokhari’s ruling that saw the club docked points and being relegated.
Yet in his criticism of Ndoro, Khoza said the player would have done all the parties involved a lot of good if he had just checked his status with the Fifa Players’ Status Committee.
In a way Khoza’s own statement seems to suggest that the committee is the only body with the power to arbitrate on Ndoro’s legality, sentiments that seem ironic taking into consideration that the PSL - led by him - had already passed a judgement that saw Ajax being relegated.
Many would agree that Khoza and Safa President Danny Jordaan should iron out their differences, stop with the unnecessary sideshows they are always involved in and focus their attention on taking South African football back to its former glory days, which saw Bafana Bafana celebrate a genuine victory in the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations.
Ndoro Gate in bad taste
Most people may say all’s well that ends well following Thursday’s judgement by Fischer who granted the PSL leave to appeal her ruling.
Ajax were then forced to withdraw their interdict to stop the PSL from starting, however even with the league starting on time - and most football lovers not being deprived of their dose of domestic football - a lot remains unresolved.
Since Fisher has granted the PSL leave to appeal her judgement‚ the matter will now stand before three judges at a later stage.
The PSL would be hoping that the three judges will set aside Fisher’s judgement while reinstating Mokhari’s ruling.
However, this saga has left a bad taste in most footballing faithfuls' mouth.
Many are even suggesting that the PSL “bribed” the Urban Warriors to no longer challenge the matter, while teams such as AmaZulu, who were negatively affected by the docking of points - and played a cameo role in the legal cases - have also been left aggrieved and surely distrusting the good standing of the PSL and Safa.
More needs to be done in terms of the two bodies acquainting themselves with the rules of the game and picking out possible issues such as the Ndoro legality much earlier and dealing with the matter more divisively.