Blundering Botswana referee Joshua Bondo has paid a huge price for his diabolical officiating in the COSAFA Castle Cup clash between Zimbabwe and Madagascar, with the match official being expelled from the regional tournament for poor performance.
Bondo received widespread condemnation for his shocking decision to turn down two appeals for penalties from the Warriors, late in the match, when on both occasions Zimbabwe should have been given two spot-kicks against Madagascar on Wednesday night.
COSAFA, who have a zero tolerance on bad officiating, yesterday wielded the axe on Bondo after reviewing the referee's pathetic performance which marred the Group B top-of-the-table clash between the Warriors and Madagascar that eventually ended 0-0.
Bondo was duly criticised across the COSAFA region, and on the continent, for his poor show and the regional body's referee's committee that has been trying to use the tournament to develop match officials from Southern Africa stuck to their principle and decided to send him home.
Ironically, Bondo had been touted as one of the best of the emerging crop of referees in the region and handled matches on a bigger scale such as the 2016 CHAN finals in Rwanda, the CAF Under-20 championships in Zambia and the 2017 African Cup of Nations in Gabon.
He also received rave reviews along the way.
But on a cold Wednesday evening at Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace, Bondo hogged the limelight for the wrong reasons and shamed himself in the clash between the Warriors and Madagascar.
It was in the decisive moments of the game that Bondo was found wanting and drew the ire of the Warriors camp after twice denying them legitimate penalty calls in a five-minute spell of madness.
Bondo had the Warriors players and their bench up in arms after he first denied them a penalty after substitute forward Raphael Manuvire was hacked down in the box.
The 39-year-old official also robbed Zimbabwe of an opportunity to score from the penalty spot when he waved away appeals for a professional foul on skipper Ovidy Karuru by goalkeeper Jean Randrianasolo.
Although COSAFA were yet to issue an official statement on the fate of the referee, The Herald can reveal that, just like Zimbabwean official Ruzive Ruzive in 2015, Bondo has been shown the red card.
"COSAFA have always maintained zero tolerance on poor performance. Inasmuch as he is a top referee, it is also disappointing that he failed to live up to expectations and he is being seen home based on his performance," sources close to the regional body said.
Harare referee Ruzive was also sent packing at the 2015 tournament in South Africa and, ironically, after handing Madagascar a lifeline with some controversial decisions in their match against Swaziland.
That Group B decider ensured it was Madagascar who advanced after they had scored one goal more than Swaziland as the match ended in a 1-1.
Should Madagascar advance into the quarter-finals today at the expense of the Warriors, Sunday Chidzambwa and his men, just like Swaziland in 2015, could point to the referee as having decided their fate.
Chidzambwa was disappointed by the bad officiating yesterday and said it was time for his charges to turn their attention to their final Group B game against winless Seychelles which they need to win to remain on pole position.
Chidzambwa challenged his players to take the "right approach to the game".
Seychelles were eliminated following their 2-1 defeat by Mozambique with victory giving the Mambas slim hopes of qualifying as they lie third and with three points, one behind Zimbabwe and Madagascar.
Chidzambwa said while it appeared an easy game on paper, the Warriors could easily make life difficult for themselves if they took a complacent approach against the group whipping boys.
In their last COSAFA meeting in Namibia last year, the Warriors thrashed Seychelles 5-0 but the victory was not good enough to help Callisto Pasuwa's men finish top of the group as Swaziland edged them for a quarter-final place.
Chidzambwa, who revealed he would reshuffle his side today, does not want the Warriors to take any chance against Seychelles.
"It can be difficult to play a team that is playing for pride, but sometimes it can be easy. It is up to us to have the right attitude.
"I think the Seychelles game won't be a pushover.
"We have to fight hard and we can't afford to be complacent," Chidzambwa said.
Chidzambwa, who is yet to lose a COSAFA Castle Cup match, was also not happy with the manner in which his charges lost possession and lacked imagination in the final third.
"Yesterday (Wednesday) we didn't create many clear-cut chances and that is one area that we have been working to address.
"Madagascar were also very organised and they are good in midfield . . . they kept possession well.
"They have been playing together for a long time both in the national team and at club level. They have seven players from one club who started that match.
"But we were losing the ball far too easily when going forward and also we didn't get into the right scoring positions to make use of the crosses that came into the box," Chidzambwa said.
The ZPC Kariba coach said Black Rhinos right back Jameson Mukombwe had been ruled out of today's game after picking an injury in the 44th minute of Wednesday's tie.
"Jameson is out, he suffered a hamstring injury and we will now have to reshuffle our defence.
"We also need to look at the guys who have not played any game here and give them a chance," Chidzambwa said.
With the veteran coach hinting at changes, Highlanders striker Prince Dube, Rhinos defender Bruce Homora and Kaizer Chiefs' Michelle Katsvairo could be handed starts.
Ngezi Platinum goalkeeper Takabva Mawaya could also get his chance.