Independent SportView With Darlington Majonga
WHEN the Zimbabwe Football Association this week overturned the Premier Soccer League’s decision to expel Amazulu for refusing to fulfil a fixture on a Saturday,
it appeared a judicious decision in the best interests of the game had been made.
But as the football authorities grope around for a long-term – if not final – solution to the Amazulu saga, it is important to make decisions that will leave football the winner.
We appreciate Amazulu owner Delma Lupepe’s commitment to football as much as we respect his religious persuasion. But for him to dictate when his team can play on religious grounds is an unfortunate position that should not have been allowed in the first place.
For the past eight years since they joined the premiership, Amazulu have not played on Saturdays as the club – if not Lupepe alone – observed Sabbath.
We don’t know whether the PSL deliberately arranged so or whether other clubs made mutual undertakings to accommodate Amazulu over their fixtures dilemma. But what we know is that a dangerous precedent had been set.
It’s a development that was always bound to bring the game of football into disrepute. You can imagine what would happen if Amazulu were to represent Zimbabwe in continental competitions. Would they refuse to play on Saturdays as well?
Although the PSL might not have come up with the best judgement in expelling Amazulu, we believe it was high time Lupepe’s egoistic dictates were restrained.
We are only mortals to judge Lupepe’s piety to God, but his fanaticism when it comes to his Christian beliefs seems to have been overwhelmingly apparent.
The idea of having one man holding the whole league to ransom simply because of his Adventist convictions can only be harmful if entertained.
Can you imagine Twine Phiri, a devout Muslim, refusing to have Caps United playing on Eid al Fitr or during the whole Ramadan?
In Italy, we have not heard Silvio Berlusconi stopping AC Milan playing on Sundays simply because he is a Catholic.
Even in Bangladesh, where 95% of the 144 million people in the southeast Asian country, they still play cricket, hockey and football during the Eid-ul-Azhar celebrations though they cannot go to work to mark their biggest religious holidays.
It’s just not practical in a world of different religions – Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism, to name but a few. Otherwise we would even have one club, devoted to traditional beliefs, refusing to play on chisi – a holy day in Shona culture observed on any day of the week depending on the chieftainship.
While it is crucial to tolerate religious differences, Amazulu in the same breath should be broad-minded about how societies – including football leagues – have principles different from theirs.
After all here is a club that joined the PSL knowing full well that matches are fixed for Saturdays and Sundays. We wouldn’t want to believe that Lupepe thinks Catholics, Anglicans et al are not equally pious as him simply because they fulfil fixtures on Sundays.
We are certainly not advocating that Adventists be sent to Coventry, for they deserve their place in a world full of diverse traditions and beliefs. But that doesn’t mean they have to expect those around them to behave as they do.
In trying to sate his religious convictions – if not egoistic principles – Lupepe doesn’t realise how he is making life difficult for the PSL. He doesn’t realise too the conflict he has instigated in the football.
Now the stage has been set for another dogfight to prove who is bigger between Zifa and the PSL – if that war is necessary at all.
It’s unfortunate that Lupepe, who all along we believed had the interests of soccer at heart, says he would rather pull his club out of the league than play on Saturdays.
We thought when he formed the club he wanted to give back to the community that has made him what he is today. Sadly, his kind of corporate responsibility has conditions attached.
It’s Lupepe’s right to run Amazulu the way he wants, but surely he should put the club first if the purpose of its existence is to play football.
The PSL were not wrong in taking action against Amazulu, but it was the form of punishment that seemed to lack foresight. The judgement was mute on what would happen to Amazulu’s remaining fixtures and those that had already been fulfilled.
It’s important that the PSL studies judgements by its legal or disciplinary arm before implementing them, lest they themselves bring the game of football into disrepute.