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Referee woes

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By Gary Samati 

There is always a reason why football is the most exciting and popular sport in the world. Despite its popularity, the game is always full of emotions and controversy.

One important stakeholder in the game is the referee. For such reason, the referee decides the beautiful game in most cases.

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However, world over, there has been a number of high-profile errors from the referees. It is, undoubtedly, that being a referee is not an easy job, especially in a country where majority of the football supporters know little or nothing about the 17 laws of the game.

It might be harsh to blame referees for some decisions made in the course of the game. Simply because, sometimes, things happen in a blink of an eye. In some situations, referees apply the 17 laws of the game.

Officiating matches involving top teams is always a challenge where expectations are high among teams.

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While some referees apply the laws of the game professionally, some of them commit school boy errors which decide the games.

The introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is viewed as the solution to end errors. But the VAR technology is very expensive that most African countries cannot afford.

There have been high profile referee errors in domestic football which have led to abandonment of matches. One of the talking points in the first round of the TNM Super League has been the match between Blantyre giants Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Be Forward Wanderers.

The match was abandoned towards the end after some fans pelted stones and other objects.

Both Wanderers and Bullets had a goal disallowed during the match. After the end of the match, the officiating personnel needed Police escort as few angry fans protested vehemently. It is alleged that some of the referees are pocketing money to manipulate matches in domestic football.

This could just be a tip on an iceberg. In showing their discontent with the referees, Wanderers in a statement felt they were hard done by Gift Chiko and Bernadette Kwiimbira.

“We would like to request Super League of Malawi (Sulom) and National Referees Association (NRA) to conduct a joint review of the officiation to determine if such poor officiation levels are acceptable at Super League level,” reads part of the statement.

“Referee Gift Chiko and assistant referee Bernadette Kwiimbira made a lot of suspect and dubious decisions in favour of the opposing team. The suspect and dubious decisions by these two referees disrupted an otherwise good match and changed the fate of the game because they wanted the other team to win at all costs regardless of the play on the pitch.”

Both Chiko and Kwiimbira are currently top officiating personnel in the country.

But in 2017 Kwiimbira was sent back home alongside Angola’s Tania Marisa Duarte after blundering during the Cosafa Women’s Cup semifinal showdown involving Zambia and South Africa in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Duarte, who was the centre referee and his assistant reportedly swung the pendulum in South Africa’s favour and helped decide the match.

Back on the local scene, Silver Strikers Assistant Coach Macdonald Mtetemera has also commented on referees poor decision.

“The referee was incompetent. He was not biased but he failed to handle the game professionally,” he told journalists after a goalless draw against Mighty Tigers at Silver Stadium on Sunday.

While Chiko and Kwiimbira could be crucified for the errors they made in a game which was full of tension, they are also humans and they are prone to mistakes. NRA General Secretary Chris Kalichero defended the referees.

“We will assess the complaint and make decision,” Kalichero said.

To be honest, local referees are paid peanuts after officiating a match which puts them into temptations to accept suspicious gifts. All in all, to err is human. It is better for the two clubs to forgive the referees and move on.

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