Football Sport

Rangers’ resurrection gives relegation battle new twist

SO, Nchanga Rangers Football Club has risen from the dead?
What else would one say regarding the drama surrounding Rangers, the 1980 and 1998 Super Division champions, who were sentenced to Division One by the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) disciplinary committee for attempting to bribe a named referee in their home match against Nkwazi.
The drama for now is not how Rangers have rebounded from a highly suspicious and malicious boardroom demotion by the FAZ disciplinary committee.
It is how the disciplinary committee handed down the verdict to the Chingola-based club by pronouncing them demoted.
There is nothing wrong with teams being demoted from the Super Division to the third, fourth or fifth tier of Zambian football.
What shocked the soccer fraternity was the interpretation of the bribery claim and how Rangers got demoted.
We have heard about the Italian match-fixing scandals.
The world witnessed verdict on the Italian match-fixing scandal which left three of the four top clubs implicated relegated to Serie B and all four clubs started the 2007 season with points deductions.
Juventus were the hardest hit. They started the 2007 season at the bottom of Serie B with a 30-point penalty besides having been stripped of their Serie A titles for 2004/5 and 2005/6 and barred from taking the Champions League spot that season that went with the title.
Fiorentina, too, were relegated with a 12-point deduction and missed out on their Champions League spot and were joined by Lazio in Serie B with a seven-point penalty and were stripped of their Uefa Cup place.
AC Milan, despite having been implicated, escaped relegation but began the 2007 campaign in the top-flight with a 15-point handicap. Like the others, they were not allowed to compete in the Champions League the next season.
The penalties were imposed by a special committee set up to investigate match-fixing and interference with referees beginning in the season 2004/5.
The four clubs were duly penalised in line with that country’s FA regulations.
As for the FAZ disciplinary committee, it is not clear how they arrived at the decision and whether they were using the FAZ or Italian FA constitution.
Besides, Zambia Police Service national sports co-ordinator Adrian Kashala, who is an official at Nkwazi, should have declared interest. People who sit on these committees should stand on high morale ground and, declaring interest is one such.
That is why the FAZ appeals committee easily overturned the decision of the disciplinary committee to demote Rangers and lifted the life ban of three officials.
So, Rangers’ survival means there is a twist to the battle for relegation.
Nakambala Leopards who were supposed to be beneficiaries of Rangers’ misfortune, have suffocated back into relegation waters and need to win the last two games, both against Zesco United, to survive.
Rangers, who meet Kabwe Warriors in their last game, can even afford to lose.
Rangers have 40 points, one point above Napsa Stars and Mufulira Wanderers while Green Eagles and Lumwana Radiants have 38 points each.
Nakambala, the Sweet Boys, have 35 points and assuming they win the last two games, they would get to 41 points and overtake any of the five teams above them, an unlikely probability considering that they face Zesco, who are fighting to finish second and play continental football next season.
While the turn of events is agony for Nakambala and victory for Rangers, it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of neutrals considering the manner the whole case was handled from the composition of the disciplinary panel to the general analysis of the case.
FAZ should sort out its penal code to solve football decisions without controversy. Arbitrary demotions such as the demotion of Rangers set a bad precedent where decisions raised questions.
Live and learn. Revelations by Under-20 national team coach John Chibuta that his boxers’ participation in next month’s African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region Five Games is a waste of time should be taken seriously.
Chibuta fears that his boxers might be turned into punching bags in Angola.
It is a pointer to the foundation levels in boxing being weak and a wake-up call for the National Sports Council of Zambia to scrutinise sports bodies’ development programmes.
It is good Chibuta has sounded the warning bells because we would all have ended up in shock if the boxers performed below expectation
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