13 September 2017

Zimbabwe: It's a Red Mist

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) have said Dynamos forward Christian Epoupa Ntouba remains suspended for the Glamour Boys' next two matches because the decisions of referee Arnold Ncube, who had a stinker of a game in the Harare Derby, cannot be changed in the boardroom. Ncube sent off the Cameroonian for violent conduct on Sunday. The top-flight league's statement came a day after the ZIFA Referees Committee announced the red card shown at Ntouba had been nullified and the match official was now being investigated for failing to discharge his duties professionally that day at Rufaro.

The announcement sent shockwaves in domestic football, amid fears ZIFA were setting a bad precedent that would cripple the running of domestic football with aggrieved parties, hurt by refereeing decisions, rushing to the association for redress.

There were also charges the association were trying to give a helping hand to DeMbare's battle for the league championship.

It also emerged yesterday that, contrary to speculation on social media that the association might have acted on their own, their controversial decision was prompted by a protest filed by Dynamos secretary-general Webster Marechera who asked for Ntouba's red card to be nullified.

"We write to you complaining about the red card given to Ntouba Epoupa," wrote Marechera. "We feel the referee was not protecting our players from rough play he was encountering hence he ended up retaliating.

"He was being punched off the ball and has a swollen left jaw. We, therefore, seek your assistance to reverse that red card decision."

The Government also weighed in the debate yesterday and urged the domestic football leaders to resolve issues in a way that did not provoke controversy in the game.

" . . . the Minister (of Sport and Recreation) urges all sport administrators who may be involved in dispute resolution to take decisions that do not weaken established enabling structures within the sport and recreation sector," Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane said in a statement.

"In view of the above, in resolving differences, contestations and protestations that may arise out of sport games, sport administrators are urged to make decisions which inspire confidence to umpires, referees, club executives, sponsors, as well as athletes who are the most important resource of the sport and recreation sector.

"The Ministry of Sport and Recreation expresses utmost concern on the continued perpetration of violence in football. To this end, the Minister of Sport and Recreation condemns in the strongest of terms the violence by some spectators and athletes at the Dynamos Highlanders match played on 10 September, 2017 at Rufaro Stadium in Harare."

Ntouba was shown a straight red card which meant he will miss the Harare Derby against CAPS United at Rufaro on Sunday.

The Cameroonian forward was punished for head-butting Highlanders defender Peter Muduhwa.

The PSL's statement came on the day the English Football Association also rejected an appeal against the three-match ban imposed on Liverpool forward Sadio Mane who was sent off for violent conduct against Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson on Saturday.

"Sadio Mane's three-match suspension, which was effective immediately, remains in place after his claim of excessive punishment was rejected following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing," read a statement from English football's governing body.

"The Liverpool forward was dismissed for serious foul play during the game against Manchester City on Saturday (9 September 2017)."

Liverpool wanted the ban reduced saying Mane didn't appear to show malicious intent with the challenge.

Law 12 of the Football Association's laws of the game clearly states: "A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play. A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play."

Some pundits had also supported Liverpool in their battle to have the ban overturned. In Harare, the PSL said there were procedural flaws in the way DeMbare tried to have their case heard as they should have appealed to the league and paid a fee of $1 000 to back their appeal.

The league said matters related to decisions by the referee could not be overturned under the PSL regulations.

"The PSL has not received a protest letter from Dynamos FC or communication from ZIFA regarding the expulsion of a Dynamos player during the Castle Lager PSL match between Dynamos and Highlanders at Rufaro on Sunday," wrote PSL Communications and Media Liason Officer Kudzai Bare.

"The league has only received the official match report from the referee Mr, Arnold Ncube.

"Please note that in terms of Order 30 of the PSL rules and regulations:

30.1 Any club involved in a match, may lodge a protest with the league in respect of any match played under the auspices of the league provided that: A written protest accompanied by a protest fee of $1 000 is lodged with the General Secretariat of the League within 48 hours of the game and: The written protest referred to in order 30.1 above sets out the full facts on which it is based and refers to the Article and/or assistant referee's decision connected with the play, such decisions being final,"

Dynamos president Kenny Mubaiwa had earlier said they were unapologetic about their appeal, to have Ntouba's expulsion nullified, saying he was harassed throughout his entire time on the pitch.

"When we appealed, we were complaining that our player was subjected to attacks from Highlanders players, who were hitting him from the onset of the game but the referee did nothing," said Mubaiwa.

"That was our query, before we can even look at the red card.

"He is our player, we signed him to play football and we want him to play at any given time. People will always talk and talk is cheap. Remember, we always see things differently, if you ask a person the colour of the sky, he will tell you it's white but if you ask another one he will say the sky is blue, yet it is the same sky they are talking about.

"So, if people don't want Dynamos, they are bound to say negative things. We are playing good football, so we don't need favours from anyone. But we also want fair play and protection from referees. Rules should protect everyone not to be one-sided.

"I am surprised because everyone agrees that there was bad officiating on the day. As Dynamos we only lodged a complaint, stated what transpired as well as our grievances because we know our rights.

"ZIFA are there as the mediator and what they do as a result of our complaint it is not our problem. It is not about seeking a favour, we just want fair play. That's what we want."

Mubaiwa said it appears no one cares about what Ntouba went through at Rufaro and it also emerged yesterday that, even if the red card had been nullified, the Cameroonian would not have been able to play on Sunday in the Derby. "Right now, he has a swollen face resulting from that strong smash. But no-one is talking about that," said Mubaiwa.

Former DeMbare skipper Memory Mucherahohwa yesterday questioned the decision to nullify the red card.

"Whoever made the decision to revoke the red card is not helping Dynamos, but killing the spirit of fair play in football and that of the young Dynamos players who are trying very hard to win the league fairly," he wrote on Facebook.


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