Johannesburg – It always gets my nerve when an act as joyous as celebrating a goal is criminalised in our domestic football. This week the Premier Soccer League disciplinary committee struck again, fining Mabhuti Khenyeza R30 000, of which R20 000 was suspended for a year. His crime? Displaying a message on his undershirt after scoring against Bloemfontein Celtic on September 26.
This, according to the PSL, is “misconduct” punishable not by a yellow card but through a hefty R10 000 fine. For those who may have forgotten, the message on Khenyeza’s vest read: “Never end?” He did not explain himself as to what he meant, and not too many people can, even today, claim they know what message those two words were meant to send.
But perhaps it was a premonition for the Black Aces striker who, according to the same PSL DC that “sentenced” him this week, was not supposed to play at all this season after he was found guilty of spitting at a match official – a verdict which sensibly was overturned on appeal.
Khenyeza, of course, was not the first player to be fined R10 000 for his exuberance on scoring. It happened to Lehlohonolo Majoro two years ago after he revealed a message reading “I have balz” after scoring.
But we have previously pointed out the PSL’s inconsistency when dealing with such cases.
Is the league going to charge Itumeleng Khune, the Kaizer Chiefs captain, who lifted his shirt for the TV cameras to capture a message which stated “God is Great” when celebrating Kingston Nkhatha’s goal in last week’s Soweto Derby?
After fining Khenyeza, the DC have set another precedent and surely will be expected to go after Khune, even as his message was evidently harmless and would not have offended anyone. This is exactly why hauling players into a DC for such trivial cases borders on madness.
What were the talking points from last week’s Derby? It certainly was not the message on Khune’s shirt. Rather, Nkhatha’s offside goal, and the mid-pitch melee that involved both sets of players in the second half caught the eye. But at the time of writing, nobody had been charged with “misconduct” or asked to explain, including the linesman who allowed Nkhatha’s illegitimate goal to stand.
But Khune, showing an outpouring of joy after his teammate equalised, could well be hauled before the DC. It would be amiss if he wasn’t, because the PSL seem to rely on a Fifa law which states: “Players must not reveal undergarments showing slogans or advertising. A player removing his jersey or shirt to reveal slogans or advertising will be sanctioned by the competition organiser.” (Note that nowhere do Fifa talk of a R10 000 fine; just “sanction”, which could be a warning).
But the same Fifa Statutes – Law 12, to be specific – state under the heading ‘celebration of a goal’: “A player must be cautioned if he removes his shirt, or covers his head with his shirt”. Pointedly, Law 12 also says “referees are expected to exercise common sense in dealing with celebration of a goal”.
The most crucial bit about the above is “common sense”. Could someone please make this available to the PSL DC? Clearly this DC panel are not averse to what is happening elsewhere regarding this issue. In September, Luis Suarez, making his return for Liverpool after a lengthy ban, displayed a message – not once but twice, because he scored twice – when celebrating against Sunderland. His undershirt bore the faces of his family, including that of a newborn. Apart from being sanctioned with a yellow card, there hasn’t been any indication of him facing a disciplinary committee. Perhaps the most vivid example has to be that of Andres Iniesta, who scored the only goal of the 2010 World Cup final between Spain and Holland at Soccer City. Iniesta then lifted his shirt bearing the message: “Dani Jarque: siempre con nosotros (translated: Dani Jarque: always with us”, in tribute to his former youth teammate who passed away in 2009. Iniesta got a yellow card and everybody moved on. With the PSL, his “crime” could have got him to a DC hearing and a R10000 fine.
*Follow Matshe on Twitter @Nkareng