HARARE – On Thursday evening, I had a brief chat with CAPS United president Farai Jere as we made our way out of the National Sports Stadium following the club’s tie against Highlanders.
I had not seen Jere and CAPS United for almost a year due to increasingly pressing work commitments but was happy to share one or two thoughts on Makepekepe and their late surge towards finishing in the top four after showing prolonged indifferent form largely due to their participation in the African safari.
We agreed with Jere, maybe from a subjective point of view, that indeed the gruelling 14-hour flights to North Africa, on three different occasions, which meant CAPS flew into Europe first before arriving in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria, for their fixtures in the Champions League, took their toll on the team as it tried to play catch-up in the domestic league.
But I reserved my biggest comment until we had reached the car park where I told Jere that he had displayed maturity and total respect for sponsors when he withdrew the club’s Appeal against the Premier Soccer League’s Ad Hoc Committee’s decision to boot his club out of the Chibuku Super Cup on account of Makepekepe supporters’ violent behaviour which caused the abandonment of the reigning champions’ tie against Shabanie Mine at Maglas in Zvishavane early this month.
CAPS United felt the PSL had overlooked key factors in deciding against them when the Ad Hoc Committee delivered its ruling.
I share the same view and have one thing in common with Jere — we both bleed green — we are die-hard CAPS United fans!
It was and is still indisputable that CAPS United fans caused the abandonment of the match but it is disputable that the stadium resembled a war zone and that exaggerated view by referee Philani Ncube was good enough for him to decide not to continue with the match when his first assistant Thomas Kusosa was injured by a missile thrown from a bay housing Makepekepe fans.
The fact the Ad Hoc Committee dismissed the referee’s view as exaggerated was good enough to highlight the inconsistencies and possibly a pre-considered view before the match had even started.
“There was no evidence submitted to suggest that the referee did not exercise his discretion properly even though his assertion that the match venue resembled a war zone was clearly an exaggeration,” said the Ad Hoc Committee in its ruling.
For me, the most disconcerting thing is the determination of disciplinary issues relating to both CAPS United and Chicken Inn by the PSL Ad Hoc Committees after conducting draws of the Chibuku Super Cup in which these two teams were excluded although their determination had been pending.
Chicken Inn were bundled out of the Chibuku Super Cup for walking off the pitch against Yadah in remonstration with the referee over a hotly-disputed penalty. However, before the matter had been finalised, PSL proceeded to conduct a draw in which Yadah were given the green light to progress further. And it was the same in the case of CAPS United who were excluded from the draw of the quarter-finals before a ruling had been made in their abandoned tie with Shabanie.
The question is why make a ruling when the draws, which suggest impartiality and automatic determination, have been already made?
For me, the actions of the PSL expose an increasingly worrying tendency of taking everyone — including sponsors and prospective sponsors — for granted.
The PSL has failed on many fronts to justify why sponsors should cultivate lasting relations with them.
Violence continues to stalk the game despite passing toothless judgments against offending clubs.
Clueless referees continue to take charge of matches and, consequently, their decisions have often led to mindless bloodletting, destruction of property and in some cases, abandonment of matches.
Referees are appointed by Zifa but the PSL has every right to take matters up with the national football governing body where it feels its relationships with sponsors and owners of the game — supporters — are being tested.
There have been numerous complaints over poor officiating by referees and despite these genuine concerns, Zifa has continued to employ the same officials to take charge of games.
Part of this indignant behaviour stems from the fact that the PSL has failed to really bare its teeth at Zifa.
So, for Jere and his board, the withdrawal of their Appeal was out of great respect for the sponsors, the clubs that are in the final and the fans who pay their hard-earned money to invest in football.
It is not a sign that Jere and CAPS United buckled but a selfless decision made conscious of the ramifications that a bruising battle would have on the future of sponsorship for the PSL and football in general.
But it did not mask the problems at the PSL.