by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG – HAD it not been for the worsening outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, last Saturday could have seen the curtains come down the South African Premier Soccer League with the Nedbank Cup final.
The season-ending tournament was among a number of sporting events that have come to a standstill following a lockdown imposed by the government of President Cyril Ramaphosa towards the end of March in an effort to contain the scourge.
At the time, the Nedbank-sponsored competition was progressing to the semifinal stage.
Defending league champions and four-time Cup winners, Mamelodi Sundowns, and two-time champions, Bidvest Wits, were to contest the semifinal.
One-time winners, Bloemfontein Celtic, and Baroka FC, aiming for their first title, were drawn in the other penultimate match.
Following the lockdown initially imposed for 21 days but later extended by two weeks, the semifinals set for April 18-19 were among events to be affected.
Meanwhile, since the beginning of May, the government has eased the restrictions to Level 4, and the country is bracing up for Level 3 as the Ramaphosa administration eases the restrictions further.
However, major sports remain prohibited and likely to be outlawed until Level 1. The lack of action has posed a headache to authorities in the continent’s most lucrative soccer league.
While most of the annoyance has been around the conclusion of the Absa Premiership, there is also the nagging issue of the conclusion of the Nedbank Cup, which is traditionally held the weekend after the conclusion of the 30-game league.
Last weekend would have heralded the end of the league campaign with Sundowns, second on the log, among the potential winners. Hence, there is a probability The Brazilians would have completed a memorable Double.
Nedbank, sponsors of the country’s prime cup competition guaranteeing the winners a pay cheque of R7 million, downplayed the lingering crisis ahead of what was set to be the conclusion of the competition this coming weekend.
“Nedbank supports the decision by the PSL and its Board of Governors to suspend Nedbank Cup fixtures during this unprecedented time,” Keenan Klizanie, company spokesperson, said in an interview with CAJ News.
The publicist said as a long-time supporter of football, the bank remained committed to its investment in the beautiful game and its current sponsorship of the Nedbank Cup.
“We are in continuous discussions with the PSL to map a way forward that takes into account the considerations of all stakeholders,” Klizanie stated.
Nedbank assumed sponsorship of the tournament in 2008, succeeding rival financial institution, Absa, now the main sponsor of the Premiership.
– CAJ News