THE football world was left stunned on Thursday, the supposedly last day of the season, when the last five minutes of the Forest Rangers versus NAPSA Stars game changed the way the world is looking at Zambian football all because of a decision of the FAZ Appeals Committee.
There is no need to belabour the point as to what happened because in these Internet times, news travels at lightning speed.
In summary, by now Nkana would have been declared Super League champions because NAPSA failed to beat Rangers which meant that Nkana, who had a final walkover result against Nakambala Leopards, would have had an unassailable 50 points with Forest in second place with 49 and NAPSA on 48 points.
But this is not the case as we all know because the Appeals Committee decided to overturn the decision of the Disciplinary Committee to award Zanaco three points from the ‘unplayed’ match with Forest on the first day of the resumption of the league.
On that day, July 18, Forest refused to play the game with their opponents in town on account that they had several COVID-19 positive cases in their squad.
At first, even I wanted to sympathise with Forest and thought the decision of the Disciplinary Committee may have been an emotional one, but when I looked at what was supposed to be the line-up for the day provided by Forest when they were asked to do so, coupled with how club chairman Benhail Mukuka had openly protested the prospect of meeting Zanaco on the first day, left one convinced that the decision to dock the team points was the correct one.
This, especially that every team that had COVID positive cases in its camp went ahead and used reserve players to fulfill the fixtures.
Zesco United and Power Dynamos were the first teams to play without some of their key players even as they learnt of the development very late due to lack of adequate testing equipment.
Zanaco themselves were told that they had five players test positive a few minutes before kick-off against Nkana but they reshuffled the starting line-up to ensure a fixture was fulfilled. They didn’t refuse to play and lost heavily.
Green Eagles faced Zanaco with 10 positive cases but opted to change the line-up to fulfill the fixture.
Nkana played Red Arrows with a makeshift defence because results of some of their key players only reached Nkoloma Stadium at 15:40 hours but they carried on.
NAPSA reported 15 cases but played on against Buildcon to make sure the league was completed without further delay.
So, judiciously, Forest refusing to play is clear prima facie case against the rules of fair play.
But there are many questions left unanswered here and like many others, one would question why the final round of games wasn’t halted so that the Appeals Committee deals with pending cases such as the case at hand?
When was this appeal lodged? Is it true that Forest had waited from the time the points were docked until Wednesday, the day before the match, to push through their appeal?
It’s worth noting that Lusaka province minister Bowman Lusambo has been mentioned to have been calling FAZ general secretary Adrian Kashala asking him to reverse the decision of the disciplinary committee which Kashala declined on account that the FAZ secretariat cannot overturn decisions of a judicial body.
Lusambo then demanded to know the names of the committee members.
This was after Forest failed to win the Monday game against Power Dynamos, the game on which he promised his beloved Forest K100,000 should they beat Power.
Well, Bowman has denied calling the FAZ secretariat demanding for favours for his team but there was no need for him to ask names of the committee, if indeed he did, because the chairman is well-known to him, he is the legal advisor to the president Sukwana Lukangaba unless something has changed.
Is it true that the appeal reached your desk on Wednesday? If that’s true, did you ask the appellant why so late? And if it came earlier, why did the verdict wait until the last five minutes of the match?
If the appeal reached by Wednesday as I have been told, one of two things should have happened: throw it out or delay the final round of games than cause this enduring harm.
This decision may have been a fair or right one but there is everything wrong in its timing because the fair play rule is totally defeated under the circumstances and this is a committee of lawyers who preach the principle of “justice delayed is justice denied.”
Dear members of the Appeals Committee, your decision under the circumstances is very unfair and unjust.
No one is saying Forest cannot be champions. In fact, anyone can win the championship. But it’s fairness that everyone is crying about and unfortunately your decision has done very little to promote fairness here.
Forest townmates Zesco United had won three previous championships on the trot and no one raised anything against their dominance because there were no bizarre decisions that punctuated their consecutive victories.
Now, the decision to replay the game came after Zanaco’s game against Lumwana had ended in a draw which meant that the ‘bankers’ would be going into the ‘replay’ on Sunday with nothing to play for and that’s if they will even travel.
Zanaco incurred huge costs to travel for that game, fuel for their bus, accommodation, food and allowances and they will be travelling again for the same fixture. How has Zanaco become the offender?
Who is going to fund them for this supposed dead rubber? If Zanaco feels the need not to travel or if their costs are borne by their hosts, what are we going to call it?
Therefore, based on this, the Appeals Committee has failed lamentably.
You are setting a very dangerous precedent going forward because your August 6 decision is now binding.
We all agreed that the league should end because lack of testing capacity is no fault of anyone within football, but the manner in which it is ending is a matter of serious concern.
The timing of that decision is not just injurious to football but is also a shameful one that has left the committee in tatters.
See you on Tuesday