EPL match fixtures in limbo
It was back in 2016 that a working group of major stakeholders from the international football community, including: confederations, players, clubs and professional football leagues met at the home of FIFA in Zurich to discuss international matches scheduling. The main focus of the meeting was aimed at reaching a consensus about the international match calendar. They also agreed on some recommendations using a proposal originally submitted by UEFA as a basis for discussion to be submitted to the FIFA executive committee.
Among the points listed, it shows that there are nine international double dates in a two year cycle on the calendar (18 matches in total) with a tenth double date available for a non- European member association during UEFA Euro 2016. Furthermore, the discussion also put players in the limelight with them being released from the Monday of the international week for the two national team matches played during this window until the Tuesday of the following week at the latest.
With the governing body’s rules, international matches have been organized taking into consideration the six continents league schedule. These being it, the Ethiopian Premier League (EPL), due to the 2019 AFCON qualifiers, matches have been scheduled and rescheduled time and again.
The Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) has announced that it has postponed half of week three EPL fixtures earlier. Ethiopian Coffee vs. Welwalo Adigrat University, Mekele City against Fasil City, St. George vs. Jimma Aba Jiffar and Defense vs. Dire Dawa City are reported to be postponed. Following the postponed fixtures, participating clubs are complaining about the inconsistency of the calendar. The inconsistency of the annual league matches in the EPL has been the main problem in Ethiopian football history.
Regarding this, the main topic in the EFF general assembly was its hindrance to the competition.
The 14-time EPL champion, St. George has signed three local and five foreign players. According to the Horsemen’s assistant coach, the inconsistency of the match calendar became a challenge to evaluate their players’ performance.
“It is difficult to build up your squad without a formal competition. We have only played one match after we returned from our summer preparations and we cannot properly see our players’ performance.” St. George assistant coach Zerihun Shengata told The Reporter.
Zerihun stated that only doing training sessions without a competition is hard and could be a means of injury to players. He stated that the Ethiopian football governing body should schedule properly.
“We know that there are international breaks which are set-up for the national team qualification matches. But, occasion and time should be considered by the EFF before league competition starts,” he added.
The football governing body has been plagued with headaches year after year; in 2017/18 EPL season many fixtures were postponed due to football hooliganism and political unrest across the country pushing the normal season well into the rainy season making the pitch even more difficult.
Fasil City has played two matches of the 2018/19 current EPL season and resting for the past one month. The newly appointed coach of the Emperors, Wubetu Abate, believes that playing away games in the regions has its own value regarding social interactions.
“It’s clear that playing in the regions is needed. But, following the past season the federation should take strict decision in order to balance home advantage of both clubs,” Fasil City coach Wubetu told The Reporter.
Though, there is no clear reason why the EFF postponed the matches of St. George against Jimma Aba Jiffar and Defense vs. Dire Dawa City; the issue between Fasil City and Mekele City is related to the current political wave in the Amhara and Tigray regional states and the EFF is trying to discuss with both regional administrations.
Newly, elected EFF president Esayas Jirra stated that the final decision will be made by Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed. It is rumored that the EFF has submitted a letter to the sport commission to deliver to the Office of the Prime Minister for a final solution, The Reporter has learnt.
The Reporter tried to reach out to Esayas but he was not available until press time.
Among the fixtures due to take place this weekend includes: South against Dedebit at the Hawassa stadium. Hawassa City is to face Woliata Dicha in a south derby game while Sihul Shire is to play against Adama City on home turf.