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Chaos at city football tourney

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Two Under-14 games had been played earlier that morning before the official intervened to stop the later matches.

NO GAMES: Some of the visiting teams who were left stranded at the AR Abass Stadium. Neville Motlhabakwe

CHAOS and confusion reigned among players and visiting team officials who were supposed to have their football matches played at the AR Abass Stadium yesterday on the first day of the Sol Plaatje Local Football Association’s hosting of a national inter-LFA tournament in Kimberley.

The roster of matches set down for the AR Abass Stadium could only continue partially yesterday as an official, believed to be the facility manager, ejected the teams from the stadium allegedly over a disputed booking of the facility by the tournament organisers.

The teams were later allowed limited access to the stadium following protracted talks between the official and Sol Plaatje LFA chaperone, Omphemetse Mabula, who had escorted the East London Central LFA teams to the venue.

Only two early matches had been played at the AR Abass Stadium yesterday before unnamed officials stopped the games and informed the team officials that the venue had been booked out for use over the whole weekend by a church organisation.

When the DFA arrived at AR Abass Stadium yesterday, bystanders pointed out the official who had ejected the teams from the playing field. When approached, the man declined to identify himself and only said: “I am following protocol.”

Mabula spoke to the official, saying afterwards that they had agreed that the teams could return to the field but that they must wrap up their games by 2pm and make way for the church activities.

Mabula pointed out that he had only escorted the East London Central District team to the AR Abass Stadium and was only involved with the tournament as a team chaperone.

Mabula said that the local LFA top brass, who were responsible for the tournament, were locked in a meeting with Department of Sport, Arts, and Culture (DSAC) senior manager, David Mdutyana, whose unit is responsible for the stadium.

James Alexander and Moegamat Hassan, both of the East London Central LFA, said they were informed by their colleagues that the Sol Plaatje LFA had not made arrangements for the facility and that there was to be a church gathering at the venue that afternoon, which was due to continue until Sunday.

Alexander said that two Under-14 games had been played earlier that morning before the official intervened to stop the later matches.

“We were under the impression that he is part of stadium management. Our parents committee asked him if we could continue as we still had to play the Under-12 and another Under-14 team,” said Alexander.

Asked about what options were now open to them, Alexander said their best option was to go to one of the other stadiums in the city hosting tournament matches and to watch some of those games.

Both Alexander and Hassan said that they had held several meetings with the Sol Plaatje LFA, the last of which was at the end of July in Mossel Bay, where they were told “everything is on track”.

“We come here now in October and everything does not seem to be fine any more,” said Alexander.

“We travelled from East London with five teams, from the Under-12s to the Under-18s and the seniors. There are still more parents coming from East London to this event to watch their youngsters in action.”

Hassan added: “We have two LFAs from Cape Town, one from Port Elizabeth and one from East London here, which with the Sol Plaatje and the Phokwane area makes up six LFAs. We’d like to see the executive of the (Sol Plaatje) LFA.”

Mabula said later that they had been speaking to a DSAC official and they had reached a compromise.

“David Mdutyana is busy trying to organise the army grounds at Diskobolos. These guys can play here up until 2pm. Whatever fixture they are having they must be done by then.”

Mabula said he was waiting for further instructions from the Sol Plaatje LFA executive who were still to conclude their talks at Mdutyana’s office.

Meanwhile tournament matches went on unhindered at other venues in the city – two stadia in Galeshewe and the De Beers Stadium.

Sol Plaatje LFA second deputy chairperson, Mzwandile Mgoma, said that he was aware of the situation at the AR Abass Stadium.

Mgoma said the confusion stemmed from their long-standing relationship with DSAC.

“We approached them (DSAC) some time ago and informed them about the tournament we were going to host here. They said they will come back to us.

Not so long ago we went back to check with them and again we struck what could be termed a ‘gentleman’s agreement’. Indeed, we have no paper trail to prove that we booked the place.

“My concern is that we met officials who assured us and gave the go ahead (for the use of the stadium) but it seems the system failed somewhere. We understand that we have nothing in writing and this is the result thereof. We are swallowing a bitter pill here”.

Mgoma added that the department was likely to assist them in finding a suitable alternative venue where they will continue with the remaining matches.

“Currently there are processes in place between us and the department to help us get on with the remaining games.”