Tribute to Charles Kafatiya


Refereeing is one tough profession where come rain or sunshine there is simply no hiding place.

It is permissible for the rest of the normal professionals to have a bad day, underperform behind the curtains of their offices and get away with it. Not refereeing.

A referee will always be judged on presumed competence, indecision, bias and allegiance.


There is simply no neutral ground for the men in black. Little wonder, top referee Charles Kafatiya, who died on Tuesday, at the peak of his career, had his fans and critics.

The man, who died at Mlambe Private Hospital, was Malawi’s own answer to the question of English referee, Howard Webb.

Webb was branded as a Manchester United fan that would blow the whistle in favour of the Red Devils Webb-after-Webb.


Back home, the beauty of it all was that Kafatiya had no apology to make about his officiating style. He was a strong character; not one to easily intimidate.

The married man, who was also an accountant, was a typical Ngoni from the Northern part of Ntcheu District in Masasa area bordering Dedza District.

With his imposing frame, knee-clapping runs and a stern stare, Kafatiya went about his whistle-blowing business on the pitch without fear or favour.

To his contemporaries, such as refereeing great Bester Kalombo, Kafatiya was as bold as his forehead.

“He was a good referee. He was one of the best in terms of leadership on the pitch,” said yesterday the former Confederation of African Football Refereeing Manager, while in transit to bury his friend in Masasa.

To the common fan on the terraces, Kafatiya was a Bullets’ sympathiser.

Without facts and knowledge of the Laws of the Game, a Wanderers’ fan would tell you how his team was denied goals by the late Kafatiya.

Life-time Bullets’ fan, Raphael Nasimba, yesterday insisted that Kafatiya, who also used to own youth football teams and sponsor tournaments in Ndirande Township and his retirement home in Lunzu, was simply professional.

“He was a man of integrity He was a no nonsense man. I would not say he was a Bullets’ sympathiser but rather he loved every team that respected the Laws of the Game such as Bullets,” Nasimba said.

Such was Kafatiya’s love for football that he would spend money on youth football leagues at the Blantyre Secondary School ground.

Upon retirement, he also served as Football Association of Malawi Referees’ sub-committee member and chairperson of the National Referees’ Association.

On a personal level, whenever called for an interview, a suspicious Kafatiya would always respond, Kwagwanji (What has gone wrong)?

Such was the reporter-source relationship we used to call each other Akwagwanji. Of course, kwagwa zovuta.

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