Gone in Eight Minutes

African Stars have agreed to play out the remainder of their abandoned MTC Premiership match against Orlando Pirates at the Sam Nujoma Stadium on Wednesday night.

The match, which was called off late in the second half due to a power outage on 16 April, will be played for eight minutes only, the league authorities declared on Tuesday.

Additionally, Pirates will resume the match at 19h00 leading 2-0, which was the scoreline when the initial encounter was cut short.

“… The NPL office has sent out the notifications to both African Stars and Orlando Pirates to inform them about the continuation of the match, and the League does not foresee any challenges and expects both teams to honour the completion of the match. All team sheets, players and substitutes and match officials will remain the same, so that the 90 minutes are completed,” said NPL chairman Johnny Doeumlseb, who believes that the finalisation of the outstanding contest will ultimately result in the end of the troubled campaign.

Doeumlseb, however, did not indicate when and how the crowning of the league winner will be done, nor did he provide a date for when the season-ending MTC NPL Awards ceremony will be held.

The completion of the match is a temporary ceasefire, as Stars will not retract their High Court application in which it has a joint issue with the Namibian Football Association, the NPL and other parties, according to the club’s chairman, Sidney Martin.

“We have informed the NFA and the MTC NPL, that in agreeing to participate in the match, we are not abandoning any of our rights and regardless of this participation we will continue with the application,” Martin said in a statement to the media.

Martin said the impasse was “unfortunate” but necessary given there were “certain issues that African Stars consider as being fundamentally important, and which need to be adjudicated on”.

“It is true that the traditional civil courts are not best suited for ventilation and adjudication of sporting disputes, but this, as in the instant matter, is sometimes unavoidable,” Martin said.

“African Stars cannot be precluded from approaching the High Court, in order to resolve this dispute, especially in instances where it is simply denied any other recourse,” he added.

Race against time

As it stands, Stars can still win the title at the expense of holders Black Africa if they somehow secure a draw or victory over Pirates in eight minutes.

A draw will leave Stars level on 46 points with BA and see the former crowned champions for the first time in four years due to a superior goal difference.

The more improbable looking scenario of a Stars victory will win them the title by two points.

Should Stars lose to Pirates, they will finish the season as runners-up, while Pirates, whose coach Ali Akan reportedly quit earlier this month, will end the 2013-14 campaign in third place.

Word that Pirates players have been recalled from holiday for Wednesday’s match, should have Black Africa fans, who went wild with celebrations at the final whistle following their goalless draw against Tura Magic on 14 June, worried.

While it isn’t humanly impossible for Stars to overturn the deficit, the match will likely have the NFA on high alert, given the stakes involved.

Commercial interests

The NPL and NFA regard Stars’ court application as bringing football into disrepute, and have indicated that they intend to take disciplinary action against the club to avoid setting a precedent of leniency against rebellious affiliates.

The case has also drawn the interest of Fifa, who has ordered the NFA to find a speedy resolution or face sanctions.

“The judicial bodies will handle the matter in accordance with the NPL Constitution, NFA Rules amp Regulations and Fifa Statutes. The completion of the league was already delayed due to this court case and if the judicial organs of football consider to do so, they will have to speed it up so that we have no more delays,” said Doeumlseb.

Citing Fifa regulations, the defiant club maintain they were wronged by the NPL for ruling that the abandoned match be resumed for the remaining minutes only, instead of being replayed in its entirety.

African Stars are also displeased by the NFA’s refusal to hear their appeal, which was twice rejected on technical grounds.

Last week, the High Court struck their application off its roll due to a lack of urgency, but the club remained unwavering in their pursuit of an outcome that will vindicate their position in the protracted dispute.

“We still maintain that it would have been more favourable to have ventilated the issues and reached finality sooner rather than later, however this not being the case, does not deter us to continue in the normal course,” Martin said.

“It is unfortunate that due to the fact that the relief sought will now ultimately be declaratory in nature and thereafter for possible damages, the joinder of certain additional parties, in light of their commercial interests in the NPL, would now seem unavoidable. This is extremely unfortunate, but seemingly unavoidable, if the application is to properly proceed,” he added.

“The urgent application which was ultimately struck off the roll on 26 June 2014, for lack of urgency, will continue in the normal course and we will prosecute this to its conclusion and thereafter ultimately accept the outcome thereof, favourable or not.

“Therefore, in light of this, African Stars do not currently enjoy any obvious or express interdictory protection and is thus enjoined to participate in the resumption of the abandoned match of 16 April 2014, which we will do.

“If we are successful with the application we will recover any damages that we might, as a result, become entitled to, in due course,” said Martin.

Martin also took exception to NFA secretary general Barry Rukoro’s claims last week, which suggested that Stars’ initial appeal launched against the resumption of the match as opposed to the replay thereof, was fraudulent.

“We are shocked at these statements and deny that African Stars FC, or its management, had ever acted in a fraudulent manner and we take issue, in the gest possible terms, with these very unfortunate statements,” Martin said.

Source : The Namibian