By Chris Totobela
A music picnic and an unusable alternative field forced Makana LFA administrators to move premier league fixtures to the remote 6-Sai army base this past weekend, much to the discontent of a number of coaches.
Fiddlers Green, where the matches are usually played, hosted a picnic for music and entertainment instead. And the nearer alternative, JD Dlepu Stadium in Joza, is undergoing renovations.
The decision to play at the army base did not go down well with most of the clubs. However, they had no choice but to honour the fixtures.
Some of the coaches voiced their concerns and frustrations. Makana Tigers coach and MCF’s councillor Thandisizwe Matebese shared his thoughts with Grocott’s Mail. “This decision of taking the games to the army base is hitting us hard as we had to walk from Extension 7 and still had to play and walk back home. It was too much for our players.”
Sophia Young Stars’ chairman, Lindisipho Swaartbooi, concurred. “It is very difficult for our teams as the army base is way too far, but we have a problem of the scarcity of playing fields, and the games need to carry on as well, ” he said.
Joza Callies coach Luis Ntlanjeni echoed the same sentiments. “This thing is going to affect a lot of teams as we struggle to transport players. Nothing is happening at JD Dlepu Stadium, and I think the LFA needs to make a follow-up and make sure that football returns there before we lose teams.”
Matebese was also irked by a lack of consultation. “We as clubs were never consulted before this decision was taken, and it was not the first time that our clubs were subjected to this kind of treatment.”
Another burning issue that has coaches irate has been the LFA’s decision to play league games when many players are writing their final school exams.
“Our LFA does not seem to take education seriously as they continue with fixtures while our players are writing exams,” Matebese complained.
The decision to keep playing despite the final-year exams was apparently taken at an annual general meeting (AGM).
Ntlanjeni confirmed this.
“I understand it was a resolution of the AGM that we should start the season now, but I think we shot ourselves in the foot as our players are writing exams now and hardly go to training or matches,” he explained.
Responding to the coaches’ concerns about the army base, Makana LFA secretary and head of competitions, Akhona Heshu, said after losing the field to the picnic, the association was left with no choice but to look for an alternative field. “Yes I agree the army base is too far but we had no other choice. There was no need for us to consult with the teams before making the decision to take the games there as that will make us seem like weak leaders,” Heshu said.
On the issue of exams, he also admitted it was not the right time to be playing fixtures. “But the resolution was made in the AGM, and the clubs agreed. I suggested that the league starts in January, but the teams wanted to start in October, and I warned them about this.”
Heshu went on to say the administration extended the registration period of players so as to allow teams to register as many players as possible.
“We are trying our best to sort out the JD Dlepu issue and we are meeting with the mayor on Thursday to discuss JD Dlepu and many other things and we will let the public know after that what the next move will be.”
It appears that all the parties concerned agree that there is a serious problem of fields in Makhanda, that the army base is too far and the decision to play during exam-time was not well thought through.
It is hoped that the clubs and the LFA can sit down and come up with a workable solution to try and rectify the situation so that the future of the young footballers is not compromised.