Feature Article of Saturday, 26 January 2013
Columnist: Asare, Kwaku S.
S. Kwaku Asare
The citizens of Sikaman, a mythical state on the west coast of Africa, take their soccer seriously. Starting from the late 1950s, they have experimented with different leagues, including the Independence, Republican, Liberation, Westminster, Redemption, and Revolutionary leagues.
In 1992, they launched the Presidential league, which had several interesting features. The winner of that quadrennial league gets to run the country for 4 years. The winner is initially determined by the game day officials (referee and 5 linesmen). However, the officials’ decisions are subject to review, revision and rescission by the match commissioners (9 eminent citizens). The Commissioners' decisions are final and binding on all parties.
Since the inception of the Presidential league, the Patriots and the Cadres have emerged as the powerhouses, with the former winning the league in 2000 and 2004, while the latter won the league in 1992, 1996 and 2008. The 2008 league was particularly exciting and was decided in overtime, where the Cadres scored a last minute goal that was against the trend of play. The 2012 league is over. The game officials have declared the Cadres as the winner. The score announced by the officials at the end of the game was 12-11. However, this declaration was made amidst significant protests by the Patriots. First, the Patriots argue that they scored two legitimate goals, which were disallowed. Second, they argue that the Cadres scored a clear offside goal, which was noticed by 2 linesmen but somehow escaped the referee’s eyes. Third, they argued that two of the goals scored by the Cadres never crossed the line and should be set aside. If these corrections are made, the Patriots will win the league with 13 goals against 8.
While the match commissioners are still reviewing the game tapes, using the latest in replay and goal line technology, the Cadres are busy running and ruining Sikaman. The Cadres have also asked the Patriots to take part in vetting the referees who will be running the minor leagues in the country. The cadres have presented a “regionally balanced” slate of 40 ministers (21 from the North and 19 from the South).
However, the Patriots are insisting that there is no need to waste resources vetting referees who might not get to do any refereeing. They consider such vetting a wasteful exercise and are asking that all vetting activities be put on hold until the Match Commissioners have made their decision. Moreover, they argue, the Cadres have already appointed caretaker referees. Why waste scarce resources on vetting referees, who might have to be replaced when the commissioners speak?
Curiously, the Commissioners appear to be in no hurry to review the tapes, choosing rather to make strange rules. For instance, while the rules are clear that only players who played the game could testify before the Commission, the Commission has suddenly decided that for this case, the Cadres could also testify.
Meanwhile the rest of the world is amazed by how Sikaman could get itself in this situation. In particular, they seem amazed that a winner could be declared and inaugurated by the Head of the Commission that is evaluating the game tapes.
Why for instance is the championship games not played on the first Friday in October, with any overtime game being played 3 weeks after that? Then the Commission is giving up to last day of November to make a decision, with the inauguration of the undisputed Champion in January?