One Heller of a Catch-33 that Ajax, PSL and Ndoro are in
Absurdly, blame is being pointed by the characters of Ndorogate in every direction but at themselves
There is an aspect of the apparently contradictory nature of Judge Denise Fisher’s ruling reinstating Ajax Cape Town in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) that neatly crystallises the minefield that the infamous matter now labelled Ndorogate has become.
Fisher’s ruling – in the Johannesburg High Court on July 2 to overturn Advocate William Mokhari’s arbitration decision – was based on jurisdiction.
Mokhari’s arbitration deducted points from Ajax, relegating them to the First Division, for matches in which they fielded Tendai Ndoro in the 2017-18 Absa Premiership season.
Fisher said that, because the matter involved a foreign club – Saudi Arabia’s Al Faisaly, one of three teams Ndoro played for in 2017-18 in contravention of Fifa rules which say you can turn out for two – Fifa had jurisdiction, not South Africa’s internal processes.Yet when an earlier arbitration, by Nassir Cassim SC, did refer the matter to Fifa in March the global body’s Players’ Status Committee sent it straight back to Safa in April, saying South Africa had the jurisdiction.
In an almost mind-boggling third dimension, Fisher’s ruling that the matter go to Fifa is problematic – as the Players’ Status Committee chairperson, former Safa CEO Raymond Hack, pointed out on radio this week – because the global body frowns on player issues being decided in courts.
Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 was written to satirise the lunacy of the situation facing bomber crews flying missions in World War 2, who had to be certified sane to fly – but in reality pitching themselves into the face of death was the most insane thing to do.
Heller’s absurdist sense of humour might have taken some satisfaction at the three-way “Catch-33” that the Ndoro matter finds itself braced between.
This issue, which surely might have been handled better all round, realistically threatens to delay the coming season which starts on the weekend of August 3 to 5.
The PSL will seek leave to appeal Fisher’s decision. Failing that the league will go back to Fifa’s Players’ Status Committee – surely asking that sanity prevails, and a ruling is made, so as not to disrupt the South African domestic season.But the time available is the problem. With just two weeks to kickoff, Ajax will seek to interdict the season in the High Court on Tuesday, while, with Fisher on leave, the court appeal matter will also only be held sometime next week. And that’s only seeking leave to appeal, and not the appealing itself, both of which Ajax will oppose.
Blame, as in the Catch-33, is being pointed by the Heller-esque characters of Ndorogate in every direction but at themselves.
Ajax, who should have checked they were not in breach of any Fifa ruling registering a player, are blaming the PSL.
The PSL deny they have the obligation, or the capacity, to ensure that each registration of every player each season complies with Fifa regulations.
But surely a quick Internet search on the website Transfermarkt.com for every registration could at least raise alarm bells so any signings with question marks could be referred back to the clubs to make sure.In this case it could have saved a lot of time, a laborious and expensive legal wrangle for all, and prevented the coming season’s kickoff being endangered.
PSL chairperson Irvin Khoza has refused any culpability on the part of the league and blamed Ajax and Ndoro.
Ajax, too, once Ndoro was initially cleared by the PSL’s Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) in late January, were instructed in a letter by the PSL that Fifa had warned that the DRC ruling was wrong. They continued to play Ndoro, who scored one goal. Coach Muhsin Ertugral, as a Fifa instructor, should have known better.
Such legal matters are remarkably open to interpretation, and this case is the perfect demonstration of that. But the logical conclusion is that Ajax, especially if the matter ends up at Fifa, will have been found to have broken Fifa’s rule 5.3: “Players may be registered with a maximum of three clubs during one season. During this period, the player is only eligible to play official matches for two clubs.” It is crystal clear.
Now Ajax and their chairperson Ari Efstathiou, who appears recklessly inexperienced in football matters, are left to desperately pursue the only course that might save the club from relegation – through the courts.
Perhaps they can still be found guilty, but the penalty lessened.
Perhaps they believe that by trying to interdict the coming PSL season through the courts they might be able to force the league to back down on their appeal.
If that is Efstathiou’s thinking, he does not know the “Iron Duke”, Khoza, very well.