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Referee erred — Bester Kalombo

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Malawi refereeing great, Bester Kalombo, has added his voice to debate on Patrick Ngoleka’s officiation in Saturday’s Blantyre derby by claiming that the Fifa Grade One referee and his assistant Innocent Kaundula erred in flagging for offside to deny Nyasa Big Bullets a goal.

Bullets thought they had scored a late winner through striker Chiukepo Msowoya in the TNM Super League match against Be Forward Wanderers at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, only for Kaundula to flag for offside.

Earlier, Ngoleka also ruled offside Bullets striker Bright Munthali’s effort during the match, but Kalombo, in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, said he was certain that the second offside decision was incorrect.

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“Well, I want to be honest, there was an error. It is sad that Kaundula, one of our top referees, got it wrong. I am sorry to say it but he made two mistakes. They were not off-sides. I am saying this because Kaundula is a Fifa referee. He makes such a mistake outside the country [in an international game] then he is out. Since last July, there is an amendment to the offside position.

“If a player is in an offside position, a defender for the other team comes to avert the danger but somehow the ball goes to the player who was in an offside position and he scores, it is not an offside.

“The defender [for Wanderers] touched the ball in an attempt to save it, so it was no longer an offside. He erred by raising his flag. When there is an action from the defender, then it is not an offside but when there is a reaction from a defender it is an offside,” Kalombo, the only Malawian male centre referee to have officiated at the Olympic Games and the Africa Cup of Nations, said.

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The former Confederation of African Football referees manager partly blamed Football Association of Malawi (Fam) and Super League of Malawi (Sulom) for a laissez faire attitude towards refresher courses for referees, amid concerns on the same by National Referees Association.

Referees last attended a refresher course in 2016, according to the association.

Fifa’s Laws of the Game on offside explain what constitutes this offence:

“A player is deemed to be offside if he is closer to the opposing goalline than both the ball and the second-to-last opposing player. A player is not offside if he is in his half of the field, or on the same line as the second-to-last opponent, or on the same line as the two last opponents,” the rule states on Fifa. com.

Another website, www.law-11. com states: “When an attacker comes from an offside position and challenges the defender shortly after the defender has taken the ball under his control then it will be regarded as an offside offence—the attacker gains an unfair advantage by coming from an offside position (this is not in alignment with the Spirit of the Law).

“If the defender does not take the ball under his control, but plays the ball to somewhere else and is not challenged by the attacker while playing, then the attacker is not regarded to have gained an advantage.”

But quoting the same offside rule, Wanderers General Secretary, Mike Butao, suggested that Kaundula got the decision right.

“A player is never offside when there are at least two opposing players/defenders in front of him, one of them being the goalkeeper. If the goalkeeper has ventured inside and the one trying to score is ahead of the goalkeeper, even if there is another player in front, it is offside. That is the case with this goal [by Msowoya]. Wachinya ali kutsogolo kwa keeper [he has scored while in front of the goalkeeper].

“And the second player is the goalkeeper. In Saturday’s case, the striker who scored received the ball while he was in front of the goalkeeper but the goalkeeper had gone out to intercept the initial shot. There have to be at least two defending people in front of an opponent (one of them being the goalkeeper for the opponent not to be flagged offside),” Butao said.

However, video footage seems to show Msowoya curling his shot into the net while behind two Wanderers’ defenders, with goalkeeper Richard Chipuwa

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