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SA SOCCER NEWS
Of Strikes And Referees 07/08/03
The kind of brinkmanship witnessed at Santos this week is yet another salutary lesson in how not to run a professional football club.

When the whispers about Santos players considering embarking on 'industrial action' started doing the rounds, I had hoped that they would be proved to be nothing more than just that - whispers.

But as it turned out, it is a threat they were prepared to make good on and take it to its logical conclusion.

Fine, the strike was averted and there was relief all round, but there won't be any popping of bottles of bubbly in celebration. It is another unwelcome blight on the image of the game and the situation should never have been allowed to deteriorate as far as it did.

Here is some unsolicited and simple advice for Goolam Allie: Don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

Shunned by sponsors like a plague, Santos have managed to stay afloat chiefly because of results on the pitch. With their impressive haul of trophies over the last couple of seasons, they have managed to generate decent funds to oil what would otherwise have been a creaky machine, as my colleague Anthony McLennan so persuasively argued not long ago.

Unfortunately the simmering crisis at the club was allowed to teeter on the brink and almost boiled over.

It is not my place to hand out advice on proper labour practice, nor is it my brief to say whether the reported R8 000 each player was awarded for winning the Absa Cup is just reward for their exertions in the process of earning the club R1.5m. 

The question to ask is: Who is reneging on an agreement, or was there ever one?

In this day and age, it is a terrible indictment on the running of the game that there should ever be quarrels over how proceeds from cup triumphs should be shared.

Aren't bonuses agreed well in advance? Shouldn't the issue have been settled before the final, not after? Isn't that the way professional clubs are run?

Interesting that Allie should continue to sing his "lack of sponsorship" mantra, which he seems to believe absolves him of any wrong-doing or apparent lack of vision for the People's Team.

I was also just wondering whether Mr. Pot (Allie) has met Mr. Kettle.

I remember quite vividly how Allie flew off the handle and fired a broadside at the PSL in December last year.

Remember Andre Arendse's mysterious red card after the match against Arrows (apparently for verbally abusing officials) and the emotive language and the vitriol that then spewed from the Santos camp, led by none other than Allie himself?

The Santos owner described the development as "another black day for South African soccer," and intimated that his club was the victim of a PSL conspiracy.

Keen to expose the dark forces at play, Allie made a call for "the latest debacle" to "become public knowledge so that the ordinary supporter is aware of the type of underhand dealings that are part and parcel of soccer in the country," (The Sunday Argus, December 15, 2002)

Quite a mouthful! If what in my opinion was a simple case of administrative bungling constituted a black day, I shudder to think what we would have branded the outcome of Santos players firming up their strike threat. That  December "black day" would have paled into insignificance by comparison.

Talking about professionalism, the Iron Lady of South African football, Anastasia Tsichlas reckons the referees need a crash tutorial in impartiality and should be punished for atrocious decisions.

Shame, the outspoken Sundowns managing director has lost count of the number of bad refereeing decisions against her club, especially against arch rivals Kaizer Chiefs. And it always seems to happen in Cup finals, she says.

A blooming mad Tsichlas is also aggrieved that questionable decisions have robbed her club of potential income and that some refereeing decisions have left the players deflated.

The latest was in Sunday's Charity shield when Daniel Mudau's goal was disallowed and the Brazilians went on to lose to a solitary strike by John Moshoeu.

Unfortunately, Tsichlas's protestations are likely to be dismissed as the rantings of a sore loser and as consistent with the controversial character she has become. It is the risk one runs for gaining a reputation as one given to protesting too much and always making a song and dance of minor injustices.

But to dismiss her complaints in terms of sour grapes is to miss the point.Whether there is a conspiracy against Sundowns or not is not the issue. The integrity of referees is. It has been for quite some time.

The impartiality of officials has been questioned one too many times, and it's time something was done to stop the rot and the perception that Chiefs always seem to get the rub of the green at the expense of other clubs was corrected.

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