WITH PILIRANI KACHINZIRI:
It was another week of shame for Malawi football as irate Nyasa Big Bullets supporters ran amok at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe last Sunday, vandalising stadium facilities after they lost 1-0 to Blue Eagles in the Airtel Top 8 final match.
Several people were injured and tear-gassed as some short-fused supporters were involved in running battles with the police after the game.
Stadium equipment and facilities were damaged and referee Misheck Juwa, looking confused and helpless, temporarily suspended his brevity and faced the reality of being beaten up by supporters and players.
The genesis of it all was the collision between Bullets left-back Yamikani Fodya and advancing Eagles’ midfielder Gilbert Chirwa in the 18-yard box.
Video replays show that Fodya cleared the ball first before bundling Chirwa to the floor. Referee Juwa adjudged Fodya to have committed a foul; hence, the decision to award the penalty-kick to Eagles in stoppage time.
Veteran referee Bester Kalombo, after reviewing the video clip of the incident in an embargoed Times Television programme, concluded that the referee erred in awarding a penalty to Eagles because Fodya had tossed the ball first before the contact with the Eagles’ player.
Kalombo schooled me that a referee was supposed to be 10 meters close to the action as per Fifa requirement but Juwa was miles away, watching the incident as a mere spectator.
No wonder, he made a shocking and wayward decision which painfully separated the winners from the losers in this lucrative competition.
It was a brave decision that could be equated to suicide bombing at a fully packed market-place.
However, it is unfair to blame the referee alone. Those who made the decision to throw him into such an enormous battle should also squarely shoulder the blame.
There are many experienced and competent referees who could have handled the game better, than assigning a referee who could not even use his sixth sense when it mattered most.
His delivery was contrary to the expectations of many as, at times, he lacked class and composure. Given a choice, Bullets supporters would recommend that he be thrown into an everlasting bonfire.
Bullets management have issued a press release, condemning their own supporters for the unruly behaviour, though they blamed partly the referee for the violence.
No one would condone such irresponsible and undignified behaviour.
Bullets must be told in no uncertain terms that football is unfair in a sense that a referee’s decision is final, no matter how painful it may be.
Football is a game which never goes with a script.