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Afcon puts paid to domestic league fixtures

17 January 2013
Mthetho Ndoni

THE Nelson Mandela Bay municipality has closed its gates to the majority of domestic football activities at its venues in order to draw soccer supporters to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) matches starting this weekend.

A total of 13 Local Football Associations’ (LFA) league fixtures have been postponed during the Afcon games and the matches will resume immediately after the final game of the group stage match of the tournament has been completed in Port Elizabeth. Only the New Brighton Football Association have scheduled fixtures, but their games will be over early on the weekends.

The four Afcon teams based in the city – Mali, Ghana, Niger and DR Congo – will use some of the LFA football match venues as their training facilities.

South African football Association (Safa) Eastern Cape Second Division side Bay Stars have also been booted out of their home venue as Gelvandale Stadium will be used as a training ground for Niger’s national team. Gelvandale, Zwide Stadium, Westbourne Oval and the NMMU Stadium have all been closed while Afcon matches are being played in Port Elizabeth.

Zwide Stadium will host the DR Congo, while Pefa’s field, Westbourne Oval, is being used by Mali.

Stars had to postpone their two league home games after their venue was taken over as a training site by Niger for the Afcon period and they will only be able to play their away games at the moment.

Stars technical director Mark Tommy said not being given an alternative venue was not an ideal situation.

“But the fact that we are not playing some of our home games gives us more time to work on the fitness and the balance of the players after we came back from the Christmas break,” Tommy said.

“We can’t get an alternative venue because there’s a clash of dates for the bookings of a private venue we normally use as our second home field.”

Safa NMB president Mzimkhulu Fina said the majority of LFA members had agreed to postpone the local fixtures during the Afcon event because the tournament was aligned with Safa programmes.

Highbury will be the only Port Elizabeth soccer team to continue with their league fixtures as they booked the NMMU 2nd Avenue sports field in advance for the season.

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