7 July 2019Local media reported this week that the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) has awarded three points and three goals to Fasil Football Club (Fasil) after St. George failed to show up for the scheduled match between the two teams in Gondar – the former’s home town. The news of the forfeiture was received with disbelief and dismay across Ethiopia. Supporters of Mekele 70 Enderta Football Club (Mekele City) were particularly flabbergasted. However, so long as the decision was taken in accordance with the extant rules of the game, there shouldn’t be any discord. In the interest of football, every member of the football community should humbly accept the decision however sour it may be. That said, EFF’s decision must not be left unexamined, for the Federation’s unwise and unfair decision is likely to artificially sway the competition’s balance of power. With only one game to play, the competition has proved to be a three-horse race. Fasil, Mekele City and Sidama Bunna have high chances of winning the title. Especially Fasil and Mekele are separated only by goal difference. A distant fourth in the table, St. George have also a mathematical chance of winning the title. In such a situation where the top three teams are vying neck-and-neck for the Ethiopian Premier League (EPL) title, the EFF should have been equal to the task. The forfeiture decision, however, exposed the veneer of the Federation’s insouciance and flimsiness. Had the EFF been more considerate, sensitive and neutral, forfeiture would not have been the best penalty. EFF could have taken other punitive actions against St. George. For example, it could have fined St. George for their unsporting behavior. Alternatively, it could have decided the Fasil-St. George match to be replayed. In that sense, EFF’s decision is far from being innocent and innocuous. From ethical standpoint, the decision is utterly crooked. Allowing St. George to decide the title race through unscrupulous means is not only an affront on the EPL and a disgrace to the EFF, but also a huge disservice to the sporting family in general. Such unfair play is out of synch with FIFA’s spirit of Fair Play. Competitive football is about peace and fraternity. It is not about winning games by any means possible, including scheming. Given the extremely dicey political situation in the country, and the comingling of politics and sports, moreover, the EFF should have been more cautious than casual and more considerate than comical. More baffling was St. George’s unwelcome decision to forfeit the match. Foremost, the club’s refusal to descend to Gondar is inexplicable. There hasn’t been any convincing ground for them to cancel their trip to Gondar. Nor have they fully explained the reason behind their unfortunate decision except that they did not want to take on Fasil before they could play their pending match against Welwalo Adigrat University, a match that was postponed for security reasons. At any rate, this is a lame excuse. It is perhaps a pretext to flout the rules. As one of Africa’s oldest football clubs and the country’s most successful club, St. George should have behaved a bit more responsibly. They should have refrained from further complicating the country’s current football crisis. It would have been more honorable for them to stand above the crowd and hold the sporting spirit aloft. Honoring the EFF fixtures would have been the most decorous action that befits their pedigree and stature. They should have been the paragons of fair competition if not providers of direct support to the up-and-coming regional football clubs. They should have happily welcomed the competitive challenge the nascent regional clubs have put up against the better organized, Addis-based elite teams. Indeed, “to whom much is given, much will be required.” Contrary to the values of sport and at the critical juncture of the competition, unfortunately, the leadership of St. George Football Club stood at the wrong side of football history.