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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 November 2005, 17:56 GMT
Zimbabwe bans 'religious' Amazulu
Steve Vickers
BBC Sport, Harare

Amazulu's players could be put of action for a long time

Former Zimbabwe champions Amazulu have been thrown out of the country's Premier Soccer League (PSL) for refusing to play a match on a Saturday.

The club is owned by devout Seventh-Day Adventists and has a policy of not playing on Saturdays.

They contend that Saturday is the Sabbath appointed by God as a day of rest. And in accordance with their beliefs, Amazulu refused to fulfil a Saturday fixture last month.

But the PSL disciplinary committee has ruled that the club be suspended indefinitely from the league.

"Amazulu's conduct threatens the survival of the league in many ways. It brings chaos. It reduces the chances of attracting sponsorship," read part of the judgement.

For the past eight years, Amazulu have not played on a Saturday, to uphold their religious values.

If we have to choose between the Sabbath and football, we will choose the Sabbath
Team manager Felix Matsika

They have often come to amicable agreements with other clubs to reschedule Saturday fixtures.

But rivals Motor Action flatly refused to move their fixture last month, following a similar stand-off between the two clubs the previous season.

Amazulu team manager Felix Matsika says the club will appeal against the ban, but that if necessary, it is a price that they are willing to pay.

"If we have to choose between the Sabbath and football, we will choose the Sabbath," Matsika told BBC Sport.

"Football laws are made by people, but the Sabbath was written by the finger of God.

"We will appeal, but if it's the Lord's will, we will accept the ban."

But well-known Harare church leader, Constantine Murefu, who ran a second division side for three seasons, has a different perspective.

"We used to ask for our games to be played on Saturdays, as Sunday is our day for church and for God," said Murefu, pastor of a Pentecostal church in Harare.

"But sometimes it didn't work out and we had to play on Sundays, as, although we're Christians, we had to join the league on their terms, not on ours."

When Amazulu won the championship in 2003, the club saw it as a reward for their religious principles.

League officials will meet next week to consider the implications of the ban, as there are still five rounds of matches remaining in the PSL season.

Officials and supporters of other clubs have expressed shock at the ruling. Amazulu have a reputation as one of the country's best-run sides, with club president Delma Lupepe putting large sums of money into the club.

What do you think about this story? Should Amazulu be banned for refusing to play on Saturdays? And is there a place for God in football? Use the form on the right to have your say.

People play football on weekends because of the convenience of it. Other countries like England have scheduled games on Wednesdays. Why can't the PSL accommodate others who, for religious reasons, cannot play on a particular day? What do they stand to lose? After all, the essence of democracy is the accommodation of the minority.
Ato Kwamena, Ghana

When Nigeria's Super Eagles have an important international on a Sunday, our priest adjusts the church programme to creat time for people to go to the stadium or watch on TV. The Amazulus should know that God and Christ are not anti-sport. Christ riding on a horse is sport too.
Terra Okey Adikibe, Nigerian in Italy

It was a mistake on the part of the PSL to entertain Amazulu's conduct in the first place. No team is special in the league so Amazulu should not expect special treatment. When Amazulu joined the league, they were well aware of its rules and regulations, so they should conform with them not the other way round.
Charles Mazarura, Germany

If other religious groups do not give importance to a day they think belongs to God, the Adventists think otherwise. I congratulate Amazulu for their conviction to obey God's laws more than man's laws. May their tribe increase!
Jonathan C Catolico, Philippines

God asks us to honour Him in all we do. If the Sabbath is to be kept as God intended, then some things in this life must be given up. Football is not more important than God.
Wendy, USA

Integrity is fast leaving this world and to find a team of professionals who are willing to stand for the right, more power to them. The world needs men who will not be bought or sold, men who are as true to the principle as the needle is to the pole.
Howard Scoggins, USA

God does not play football, so Amazulu should form a league of their own. What if they had to play in a CAF-organised competition on Saturdays, what would they tell CAF?
Benedict Mensah, USA

If Amazulu's owners are devout Christians as they claim to be, they should not have invested in football in the first place because football is played at the weekend, and that includes Saturdays. I hope there will be a workable solution to this problem for the sake of the players and their families.
Nkosinathi Baleni, Zimbabwe

Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath
Lusenii Watson
What Amazulu should know is that, when you are in Rome, do what the Romans do. They are not the only religious club in the world, but we have never heard of such madness. Bravo PSL. Stand firm.
Wilson Chafinya, Mozambican in UK

I think it is a good thing that Amazulu are standing up for their religious beliefs. Do we not live in a society that preaches religious tolerance?
Habte Lee, UK

Let us not allow a few individuals to disrupt the league, there is enough confusion in Zimbabwean football as it is.
Ken kaMujokoto, USA

Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Playing football on Saturday or Sunday does not cause a person to violate the Sabbath. How about people who have to work on Saturdays and Sundays? Are they violating God's law? Not at all. Amazulu have gone to the extreme on this.
Lusenii Watson, USA

I think Amazulu should be banned until they come to their senses.
Eric Williams, England

Felix Matsika is saying "if they were to choose between the Sabbath and football they will take the Sabbath," so where is the problem now? Let them take the Sabbath and leave football alone.
Tulani Magumise, Zimbabwe

The rules and regulations of the league should be adhered to, otherwise there would be chaos. Amazulu should therefore take it or leave it.
Ezekiel Chareka, Zimbabwe

God is not a confusionist and cannot be drawn into petty matters like this
Segun Adeyemo
I whole heartedly agree with Amazulu. If the choice is between football and God's law, then God's law should prevail. Life is built on choices.
Elvin Walemba, UK

The rules must be followed. Imagine what would happen if some players from Motor Action refused to play on Sundays simply because they had to go to church. That would cause chaos.
Brian Munyaka, Netherlands

Being a devout Adventist is not an excuse to contravene established guidelines and authorities. God is not a confusionist and cannot be drawn into petty matters like this. I think Amazulu should live in the heavens if they cannot adjust to realities on earth.
Segun Adeyemo, Abeokuta, Nigeria

Amazulu are right and must not back down. This is not my personal opinion but it is what the Holy Bible clearly states. God's law does not change.
Namakando Namakando, England

It is the owner of Amazulu who is an Adventist and not the whole team, so he must realise that he is compromising other people's careers. As a businessman, he does not depend on the game for his livelihood but the players do.
Zweli Khumalo, South Africa

The PSL were rather hasty in their decision to wield the stick. A proper discussion between the two sides might have come up with a compromise for the rest of the season, giving Amazulu the chance to decide - before the start of next season - if they were going to respect the laws of God or that of man.
Edwin Pius, USA

I think it is the responsibility of Seventh Day Adventists to create their own league
Herculano Coroado
It was a mistake on the PSL's part to entertain Amazulu's conduct in the first place. No team is special, so they should not expect preferential treatment. When Amazulu joined the league, they were aware of its rules and regulations, so they should conform to them.
Charles Mazarura, Germany

I commend Amazulu for the stance they are taking. Football is good as long as it does not conflict with religion.
Abel Guaiaguaia, Mozambique

If Amazulu feel that playing on Saturday is against their religious beliefs, they should opt out of the league and play in another one that does not fix games on that day. They should not use religion as an excuse.
Robert Iwuoha, Nigeria

The ban is not the appropriate. If the club has been exempted from playing on Sundays since they joined the league, why the sudden change of heart by the PSL? I think Motor Action's refusal to reschedule their match was contrary to the spirit of football. If Motor Action are capable of beating Amazulu on Sundays, surely they can also do it on Saturdays.
Emmanuel Obike, Ghana

As a devout Seventh Day Adventist, I think it is the responsibility of Seventh Day Adventists to create their own league.
Herculano Coroado, Canada

Having known Amazulu FC during my time in Zimbabwe, I think they completely lost the plot. The Sabbath is for individuals and not the league. If you join a group, league, gathering, band, choir, etc, you must try to bend existing rules to accommodate your own beliefs. Thousands of footballers are Muslims but they never refuse to play during the fasting month of Ramadan. Brazilians are Catholics but they play football any day. Amazulu are interpreting the Bible wrongly and they can form their own league.
Simba Manhuwa, Zimbabwean in UK

As Jesus said, give to God what belongs to God and to Caesar what belong to Caesar. I think what belongs to the league should be given to the league.
Nwodo Joseph, Nigeria in Italy

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