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Come on PSL - Time to play the game

South African soccer fans will have had to wait a frustrating 43 days before a ball is kicked again in the domestic Absa Premiership. Is it fair to the fans and to the clubs for that matter asks Trevor Cramer ?

Trevor Cramer

Dateline - Thursday December 22nd 2016 - Mamelodi Sundowns beat Baroka FC 1-0 in an Absa Premiership catch-up fixture in Polokwane.


Then no more PSL fixtures until February 3rd 2017.


Reason: Extended season break due to Africa Cup of Nations 2017 in Gabon.


Total PSL football-free days: 43


That's the amount of time that South African soccer fans will have had to wait before a ball is kicked again in the country's top-flight professional soccer league.


For those with short term memory loss - SuperSport United, Bidvest Wits and Cape Town City are all involved in a table-topping dogfight on 25 points each, with Kaizer Chiefs a point adrift on 24.


The reason for the protracted delay is the bi-annual intervention of the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.

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A recent head count revealed that just 12 Premier League players and a single player plying his trade in the National First Division were summoned into action at Afcon 2017.


If Bafana Bafana were involved in the bi-annual showcase of African football, then sure, a break for the duration of the tournament would be understandable as that would put more of a strain than usual on local club resources.


The fixture list is cluttered as it is and the season sees a large percentage of fixtures played in sweltering summer conditions here on the southern tip of Africa.


A traditional winter seasonal sport, that changed after the domestic club season was standardised to coincide with the international calendar and barring the suspension of some leagues due to harsh winter conditions like Russia and Scandinavia, it is very rare that league football is ever suspended for such a prolonged period of time.


Sure, the tournament robs a good deal of European clubs of key players at the height of the season, but they are well aware of the pitfalls and have large enough squads to plug the gaps in most instances.


Teams contesting the Absa Premiership know full well there are occasions where certain players become injured or unavailable and that is precisely why a squad system is in place which facilitates rotation of players.


It is well known that a good number of top PSL coaches share the opinion, although not publicly stated at times, that the extended break borders on ridiculous and is nothing short of frustrating maintaining a dormant, inactive 'training' squad for such a lengthy period of time.


The FIFA rules allow countries to call up players, but the inevitable club-versus-country debate always inevitably rears it's ugly head.


But there are even instances of players who would rather remain with their clubs rather than answer the call of duty to their country.

ALSO READ: Ghana, Egypt bid for AFCON glory 

Consequentially the PSL is faced with a massive fixture backlog, cup weeks to accommodate and clubs with ongoing continental commitments. The PSL season will now only conclude on June 17th, nearly a month later than the English Premier League and most corresponding elite leagues around the world.


The question also begs to be asked as to whether the Afcon tournament, unlike many other continental competitions, really needs to be staged bi-annually and not every four years like most other federations.


The qualifying phase for the next Afcon tournament then commences virtually as the final whistle is blown in Gabon and again eats heavily into the local club schedule, ties clubs in knots and causes havoc with fixture scheduling.


The local soccer fans deserve to watch their teams in action during, if not straight after, the December holiday break and the keen interest in the game sustained.


Surely the richest professional league in Africa should be able to continue playing, especially when Bafana Bafana fail to qualify.


I for one, cannot wait for the ABSA Premiership battle to resume. Come on PSL - Please start playing the game.

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