CAPE TOWN - Ajax Cape Town have been forced to take their place in the National First Division (NFD) – and a disappointed and visibly emotional chief executive, Ari Efstathiou, summed up the club’s the situation with the words: “Time and legal procedure have trumped justice.”
In essence, 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, 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 decide to 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 that 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. 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. But, in this regard, Ajax's ultimate goal is a vindication of the stand they have taken against the PSL.
Efstathiou said, in the matter of the eligibility of Zimbabwean striker Tendai Ndoro, around which the controversy revolves, they did nothing wrong: when they were told to play him, they did; and when there was a problem, they didn’t.
“We still believe we have done everything in our power to follow the league’s rules,” said the Efstathiou. “We never did anything outside the parameters of the rules. Due to the difficulty of our situation, and the complicated court processes, we have had no choice but to accept that 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 and bring this great club back to where it belongs."
Efstathiou also confirmed that Muhsin Ertugral will stay on as head coach.