The Tendai Ndoro controversy is finally drawing to a close – there is still an appeal process to come – but Ajax Cape Town accepted their fate and will campaign in the National First Division (NFD) for the 2018-19 season.
After six months of disciplinary hearings, appeals, arbitration hearings and numerous court cases around the eligibility of Zimbabwean Ndoro, it appears the matter will quietly fade into the background and the new PSL season will kick off next week: without Ajax.
The Cape club’s chief executive, Ari Efstathiou, cut a disappointed and visibly emotional figure and summed up the situation with the words: “Time and legal procedure have trumped justice.”
In short, the legal shenanigans have left Ajax with no choice. As it stands, Ajax are still 15th – as per Judge Denise Fischer’s judgement earlier this month –but, with the PSL granted leave to appeal on Thursday, the process has hamstrung the Cape side. The appeal process could take anything between 6-12 weeks and, even if Ajax are victorious, the PSL could then take it to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
In the meantime, with the league scheduled to start next week, where does that leave Ajax? They’re a football club, and they have to play football. Because of this, Efstathiou, in conjunction with his legal team, led by Advocate Norman Arendse, decided it was best for the club to take its place in the NFD.
The fight will go on, Efstathiou was clear about this, because they still believe they have done everything according to the rules. But essentially, though, even if they win the case when the appeal comes before the court in a few weeks’ time, the verdict will be academic. In this regard, however, Ajax’s ultimate goal is a vindication of the stand they have taken against the PSL.
Asked about the financial strain the legal fight has had on the club over the past few months, Efstathiou asked: “Is this about money?
“When you believe in truth and justice, is it about money? When you believe you are right and you did nothing wrong, when you have the whole of Cape Town looking at you, when you have 120 kids in your academy wanting to play in the PSL, do you hold back the money, or do you spend it on something you believe in? We said we would fight all the way and we did, up to a point where we can’t anymore. We have been hamstrung by time and legal processes.”
“We still believe we have done everything in our power to follow the league’s rules. We never did anything outside the parameters of the rules. But, due to the difficulty of our situation, and the complicated court processes, we have had no choice but to accept we will play in the NFD.”
According to Arendse, Judge Fischer’s decision on Thursday to grant the PSL leave to appeal her original judgement, to set aside arbitrator William Mokhari’s award, was the stumbling block for Ajax, in that it made fighting on very difficult.
Efstathiou said the club’s top priority now would be to bounce back to the PSL very quickly.
“We’ve maintained our commitment to our supporters and to Cape Town,” he said. “We said we would fight to the last – and we did. Unfortunately, time is against us – now we have to try and navigate our way through the NFD. There will be changes and financial implications, but we will endeavour to fight back.”
Efstathiou also confirmed that Muhsin Ertugral will stay on as head coach.
“Muhsin is committed,” said Efstathiou. “He came in late last season, so it’s important that we have continuity. We will be forced to transfer some of our top players in order to balance the books – and then we will also look to reinforce the squad with players who can do a job in the NFD. We will have to think about it carefully and make sure we have the right balance in the squad to reach our objective of immediate promotion to the PSL.”@Reiners11