When the beautiful game turns ugly

By Thembinkosi Mangena, News Editor

THE Premier Soccer League’s decision to suspend all league matches based on an incident involving Highlanders and Dynamos has been met with widespread criticism with the majority arguing that it is in sharp contrast with international best practice.

Nowhere in the world would you see fans breaking onto the pitch to celebrate a goal or the opposite set of fans protesting in the same manner, even if their team is losing with a huge margin.

This is usually met with severe sanctions mainly on the home team for failing to put in place effective crowd management systems and measures.

Just recently the England national team was ordered to play their next UEFA Nations League home game in June this year behind closed doors after crowd trouble inside and outside Wembley before their EURO 2020 final against Italy.

UEFA’s decision was based on the fact that there was an ineffective security operation around Wembley for England’s first appearance in a major final since 1966.

UEFA also delivered another landmark ruling in August 2018 when French side Lyon were hammered with an £85 000 fine and a one-game stadium ban for a variety of offences, including setting off fireworks and crowd disturbances before the Ligue 1 side’s Europa League home fixture against CSKA Moscow.

Closer to home, South African giants, Kaizer Chiefs played two home games behind closed doors after being found guilty of failing to control their fans in the Nedbank Cup semi-final loss to Free State Stars on the 21st of April.

The club was also fined 250 000 rand, just two days before the incident in Durban on a charge of “spectator misbehaviour resulting from the club’s failure to provide adequate security” after violence erupted during their 3-0 league loss to Chippa United at the FNB Stadium.

In some case fans have been banned for lengthy spells while some have been jailed in connection with football hooliganism.

This has put into question the template which is being used by the Castle Lager Premier soccer league after a blanket ban on all league matches in a case in which only two clubs Dynamos and Highlanders are the common denominator.

It also vindicates those who have always argued that the crisis in Zimbabwean football is a crisis of leadership as the latest decision is as shocking as it is uninformed.

Questions have also been raised on the competence of the PSL Secretariat given delays in dealing with outstanding disciplinary issues.

While football authorities in other countries take less than a week to finalise disciplinary issues, the PSL is yet to come up with a verdict on the Dynamos/Bulawayo Chiefs match after it was marred by disturbances on March 5 and the FC Platinum vs Highlanders match which was abandoned at Mandava Stadium on April 23
What is even more disappointing is that the nation has to wait patiently for the ruling on the latest skirmishes at Barbourfields Stadium while domestic football is on hold.