Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Robert Marawa after reading Chippa release on coach Eymael debacle: ‘I passed out after three paragraphs’

By Marc Strydom

Chippa United have confirmed that they will abort their plan to appoint controversial Belgian coach Luc Eymael as their technical director‚ acknowledging that public and political pressure derailed that plan.

Robert Marawa
Robert Marawa

In a marathon‚ three-page-long‚ 1‚600-word statement announcing the decision on Wednesday‚ though‚ the Port Elizabeth-based club made several startling allegations against those the club alleged had effectively unfairly forced their hand in the decision.

Most of those were directed at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)‚ and particularly sports show hosts Robert Marawa and Umhlobo Wenene FM’s Putco Mafani.

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Marawa‚ reached for reaction to Chippa’s statement, would only comment: “I passed out after three paragraphs. Got bored‚ passed out after three paragraphs.”

Mafani was also approached for comment.

“I mean the SABC is consistent in responding on behalf of on-air personalities‚” he told TimesLIVE.

“Because we are not the only ones who regarded this story as news-breaking, being a sports story‚ where Chippa United are a sports club.”

Chippa alleged their decision “was not based on any concrete evidence or legal position”.

The club‚ owned by the controversial Siviwe “Chippa” Mpengesi‚ accused Marawa‚ on his radio show Marawa Sports Worldwide‚ of incurring “substantial reputational and financial damage” against United on both occasions when the club attempted to appoint Eymael.

Chippa first attempted to appoint the Belgian coach in December 2020.

Chippa’s statement said “unsubstantiated‚ unethical and prejudicial actions of, in particular Robert Marawa’s show‚ which on top of Marawa himself clearly expressing bias‚ invited a political party and a niche union representing coaches to express their views on what are his views‚ including the publicly stated intention to disrupt Chippa’s upcoming fixtures”.

The EFF in the Eastern Cape had slammed Mpengesi’s decision to appoint Eymael. The former Free State Stars coach was tainted from alleged racist remarks he made that saw him fired from Tanzanian club Yanga Africans in July last year‚ after he allegedly said the club’s fans were like “monkeys and dogs”.

Chippa’s statement said it aimed to “dispel certain misinformation that has been peddled in the media regarding Chippa’s said position … and lastly to condemn the reckless manner in which the matter has been aired through the … SABC‚ firstly in December of 2020 and currently on sports shows.”

It continued: “Chippa decided in December 2020 to appoint Eymael … Whilst we had no concrete details at the time of appointment‚ we were aware of the media reports regarding an alleged racist incident in Tanzania‚ and Mr Eymael’s reported responses denying the accusations.

“Following a backlash and public outcry that ostensibly followed a statement by the South African Football Association (Safa) and several broadcasts‚ Chippa decided to … abandon its plans.

“It must be stated that the decision … was not based on any concrete evidence or legal position regarding the claims against Eymael‚ but was rather informed by the club’s sensitivity to the gravity of the accusations against Eymael‚ the public outcry and to also allow the matter to be fully investigated.

“By this time however‚ substantial reputational and financial damage had occurred against the club‚ caused by broadcasts‚ largely on the Robert Marawa World Wide sports shows on Metro FM and Radio 2000 on the SABC and statements from political organisations and stakeholders condemning Eymael’s appointment.

“Chippa United proceeded in January 2021 to approach the Ethics Committee of FIFA … to seek clarity on whether there was any ban issued against the appointment of Eymael‚ or any matters pending before it.

“FIFA responded in summary that it would look into the matter and would take action if required … . Nothing further followed from FIFA confirming any ban and/or pending proceedings against Eymael.

“Following the departure of coach Dan Malesela after a string of extremely poor results‚ Eymael contacted the chairman of Chippa [Mpengesi] to confirm that he had independently sought to clear his name‚ including addressing Safa‚ who, on his version, confirmed to him that there were no proceedings against him.

“Eymael furthermore confirmed that there were no proceedings from the Tanzanian FA nor from FIFA against him.

“The chairman of Chippa in response contacted the CEO of Safa‚ Mr Tebogo Motlanthe‚ to request written confirmation that there were no legal grounds to prevent the appointment of Eymael and furthermore that there were no proceedings against him through the local Ethics Committee.

“During this conversation it became clear to Chippa that there was no legal basis to prevent the appointment of Eymael and Chippa proceeded to appoint him in the position of technical director on condition that Safa clears him in writing and that he receives the necessary work visa.”

Under a section titled: “Misinformation and uproar”‚ the statement continued: “… Upon the initial attempt to appoint Eymael in December 2020‚ there was an uproar about Chippa’s intentions to appoint an alleged racist.

“This was by and large caused by utterances of Robert Marawa during a sports show‚ which also included the continuous airing of a sound bite with a voice alleged to be that of Eymael‚ the source of which was not credited.

“We cannot overemphasise the fallout that followed the initial statement by Safa in December 2020 and the said broadcasts‚ including public condemnation on air‚ social media and statements by sponsors and political parties in condemnation of Chippa.

“This also caused the withdrawal of plans to appoint Eymael at the time‚ which as can currently be seen in the team’s poor performance led to goals and objectives not being attained.

“A new challenge is now faced through the unsubstantiated‚ unethical and prejudicial actions of, in particular, Robert Marawa’s broadcasts …

“We were furthermore dismayed to note that the tone set on the other SABC stations was followed by the newly appointed Putco Mafani on Umhlobo Wenene FM, who interviewed a political party‚ a station with a long-standing relationship with Chippa and with a sponsorship agreement that includes Chippa United officially advertising the station‚ jeopardising such amicable relationship through unprofessional conduct.

“ … Chippa strongly condemns the use of the public broadcaster to air unsubstantiated views and promote agendas though politics in sport.”

Chippa’s statement further states that the SABC‚ “which subscribes to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa code … is a media partner of the Premier Soccer League and as such must adhere to the laws of the game in its broadcasting.

“Chippa will issue a complaint to the SABC concerning the offending broadcasts and are currently seeking legal advice on further action to follow in this regard.

“We will furthermore raise the issue with the PSL as the actions expressed herein have clear and potential adverse effects to both the league and its other sponsors, including DStv, should there be any disruptions to fixtures.”

The statement said “the FIFA handbook specifically bans the expression of political opinion in football‚ punishable by suspension or expulsion”.

Chippa alleged that in the SABC broadcasts “no legal expert being contacted to express an opinion in the matter‚ instead with political parties”‚ and the “legal principle of Audi Alterum Partem (hear the other side) was not adhered to‚ with Eymael not having been provided any meaningful opportunity to respond”.

The statement concludes: “Chippa have decided not to continue with Eymael’s appointment‚ who will proceed to return to Belgium.

“It is clear that Eymael himself requires further time to clear his name. He has reassured the club that he will‚ in his own capacity, take legal action concerning his rights‚ including the dissemination of the offending media clip through his own lawyers.”

Chippa fired coach Dan Malesela on Sunday morning.

The club have indicated that assistant Siyabulela Gwambi will take over as caretaker-coach. TimesLive