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Five biggest soccer controversies that grabbed the headlines in 2018

27 December 2018 - 13:12 By Marc Strydom
A Mamelodi Sundowns fan attacks Orlando Pirates' assistant coach Rulani Mokwena during an Absa Premiership encounter at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday November 10 2018.
A Mamelodi Sundowns fan attacks Orlando Pirates' assistant coach Rulani Mokwena during an Absa Premiership encounter at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday November 10 2018.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

South African football never seems to be shy of controversies for the press to report on.

Still‚ somehow 2018 felt like a year where football scribes‚ disappointingly‚ spent more time reporting on off-field issues than the actual soccer.

Plenty to write about‚ but not always what we wanted to write about.

We have identified the five biggest soccer controversies that grabbed the headlines in 2018.

1) The Moses Mabhida Stadium pitch invasion

A second violent pitch invasion in two seasons‚ following Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns supporters’ debacle at Loftus Versfeld in February 2017‚ this time by Kaizer Chiefs fans at Moses Mabhida Stadium in April 2018‚ raised serious questions about the state of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) matchday security.

An estimated R2‚6m damage was caused as fans burned seats and damaged television equipment‚ including trashing cameras.

Worst of all was the serious beating of a security official.

2) The PSL and Safa’s red card over OUTsurance

The SA Football Association (Safa) proudly announced a R50m sponsorship of referees‚ which they oversee‚ by OUTsurance in September.

Soon‚ though‚ the PSL and their sponsors were asking questions about the potential diminishment of rights‚ and a lack of consultation considering the garish outfits would be worn in league matches.

The spat of accusations and counter-accusations that followed made one wonder if the two bodies‚ supposedly operating under the same umbrella‚ were involved in administering football‚ or considered themselves more like opposing political parties.

3) Ndorogate

No-one came out of the eligibility saga over Ajax Cape Town’s signing and fielding of Tendai Ndoro smelling like roses.

The PSL registered the Zimbabwean striker‚ and seemed unaware of a Fifa ruling that players can turn out for no more than two clubs in a season‚ and nor did Safa‚ who provided the international clearance.

Ajax and their coach Muhsin Ertugral were warned‚ after an initial dispute resolution chamber (DRC) decision cleared them to play Ndoro‚ that the decision appeared wrong‚ but continued fielding him nonetheless‚ resulting ultimately‚ after countless arbitration and court challenges‚ in their relegation.

4) Mato Madlala passes three years as acting CEO

There appears to be no law against chief executives acting for a particular period.

But the fact that Lamontville Golden Arrows chairperson Mato Madlala has now lasted longer in the PSL chief executive hot seat in an acting capacity than any of her three permanent predecessors since 2011 seems a controversial statistic‚ never mind the conflict of interest questions.

5) Rulanigate

When has an assistant-coach been so outspoken?

Orlando Pirates’ prodigy assistant Rulani Mokwena was given a rare opportunity ahead of the first Soweto derby of 2018-19‚ at FNB Stadium on October 27‚ to address the media.

He dispensed with pleasantries or diplomacy. He trod a fine line … . Actually‚ to be honest‚ he never really bothered with a line.

Notably Mokwena questioned the coaching credentials of Chiefs’ Giovanni Solinas and appeared to question the commitment of Amakhosi striker Leonardo Castro.

If the statements sparked controversy and divided opinion‚ they appeared to add much-needed fire to the stale old derby‚ which was one of the best for some time.

A rattled Chiefs succumbed 2-1 to Pirates. Solinas appeared to make team selections based on Mokwena’s criticisms.

And two months later‚ Solinas has been fired by Amakhosi. So‚ what was the fuss?