9 November 2018

Namibia: NPL 'Circus' Opens Today, Maybe

For the second season running, Tigers will "for principled reasons" not honour their opening match of the MTC Namibia Premiership, which is set to kick off on Friday evening amid administrative chaos.

With Tigers' match against Okahandja United on Saturday off, it remains to be seen whether Friday night's league opener between Tura Magic and Orlando Pirates at the Sam Nujoma Stadium will take place as scheduled.

The 2016 league champions' latest boycott is over the legitimacy of Okahandja United's top-flight status. Tigers believe Saturday's rival is an impostor who has failed "to explicitly demonstrate" how they gained promotion to the Namibia Premier League. They claim the Namibia Football Association and the Okahandja mayor's office circumvented NFA statutes in order for the club to assume the identity and ownership of North West First Division winners Military School Okahandja. The club's initial position was to play the match under protest, however that escalated to a boycott on Thursday.

"Okahandja United FC is not an existing member, and did not gain promotion from the first division, neither did it apply in writing to become a member of the NPL," Tigers chairman Dino Ballotti said in his submission to the league authorities on Wednesday.

"In view of the above, you are advised to consider the ramifications of starting a league season with a cloud hovering over the heads of some of its members. If you choose to do nothing, you might be seen as actively promoting constitutional manipulation and delinquency to achieve interests that are not necessarily those of the NPL and its members, in this case Tigers Football Club," Ballotti continued.

Last year, Tigers boycotted the league's start because of constitutional contraventions by "desperate and ambitious football leaders" to push through the start of the league.

"Last season, we were principled in not playing our first two matches, and were never found guilty of any misconduct, however, were deducted six points," said Ballotti.

Add to that an impending court interdict that may halt proceedings before they begin, to the uncertain composition of participants, and playing on gravel, and the NPL has dug up an unpalatable throwback to the dark ages.

When he barrelled his way onto the chairman's seat last year, Patrick Kauta was expected to be a ray of light for the perennially poorly-run establishment. Instead, he has thus far led the NPL into shambles.

Other than improved monthly grants and moving away from double-headers, football lovers would be hard-pressed to find positives for the upcoming season.

If it wasn't for the fact that the public longs to see their heroes on the football pitches, the NPL would in all probability be an irrelevant relic by now. Besides, the Brave Warriors are doing just fine without it.

On Thursday, Young African chairman Maleagi Ngarizemo reiterated his intention to drag the NPL to court should they not reverse his club's suspension "from all league activities", which rules the Gobabis outfit out of this weekend's opening round. The club was suspended for their use of Zimbabwean national Tapiwa Simon Musekiwa for NPL matches under a false identity last season.

INTERDICT

As it stands, Saturday's match between Young African and Citizens will not take place. However, Ngarizemo is pushing for a blanket suspension of the entire NPL schedule.

"They [NPL executive committee] are wrong. They don't have the authority to suspend a member. If they don't respond to our request, we will get a court interdict to stop the league from kicking off," Ngarizemo, who dubbed the situation "a circus", told The Namibian Sport.

The Namibia Football Players Union argue that Musekiwa, whom holders African Stars, chaired by Kauta, recruited but have not registered, be allowed to play this weekend.

However, should he be registered, he too will be immediately suspended pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing, as per NPL prosecutor Kadhila Amoomo's recommendations.

Meanwhile, Blue Waters are expected to be the first visitors to get examined at the Karasburg Stadium's gravel surface where they face newcomers Young Brazilians on Saturday.

The NPL has controversially passed the 100 per cent gravel venue fit for top-flight football, despite objections from several clubs who believe this will compromise quality. The league agrees with the Brazilians' claim that it would be costly for them to play their games away from their base. Keetmanshoop, situated just over 170 km north of Karasburg, is the closest town which has the desired infrastructure.

Elsewhere, African Stars begin their title defence at Life Fighters tomorrow. Last season's runners-up Black Africa begin the new campaign on the road as well, with a date at newly-promoted Julinho Sporting at Rundu; while Mighty Gunners, who confounded expectations to end third-last, travel to Windhoek to face Unam, with Civics at home to Eleven Arrows.

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