Ricky Zililo and Ngqwele Dube, Sports Reporters
IN a shocking decision, Zimbabwe Referees Committee (ZRC) chairman Philip Chiyangwa yesterday nullified the red card shown to Dynamos striker Christian Epoupa Ntouba in Sunday’s epic encounter against Highlanders at Rufaro Stadium.
Ntouba was shown a red card by referee Arnold Ncube after head-butting Highlanders defender Peter Muduhwa in an off the ball incident in the 87th minute. Then, the scoreline was 1-1 and the two giants went on to share the spoils.
Barely 24 hours after the encounter, Zifa announced in a statement that Chiyangwa, who is also Zifa and Cosafa president, alongside unnamed “several important football stakeholders” had decided to overrule Ncube’s decision without giving reasons.
“Dr Chiyangwa announced the decision (nullification) following extensive deliberations with members of the referees committee and several important football stakeholders,” read part of the brief statement.
However, Dynamos are in the dark about the decision by Chiyangwa with their manager Richard Chihoro telling our Harare Bureau that they did not appeal or discuss Ntouba’s red card.
“We spent the whole of today (yesterday) locked in a meeting with the executive. Nothing to do with the red card was discussed and I only heard that the red-card has been nullified late in the afternoon after the meeting. I don’t know if any member of our executive had made an appeal but I can confirm that nothing to that effect was discussed in the meeting we had the whole afternoon.
“On Sunday, I did not see what actually transpired in that box because I was concentrating on looking at the player who was about to take the corner kick. I only saw the referee (Ncube) flashing the card to our striker (Ntouba).
“So, on the nullification of the card, hear me right, I have no comment,” said Chihoro.
The match was broadcast live on Supersport 9 and replays show the referee was correct in sending off Ntouba after head-butting Muduhwa.
Ncube was spot on with his decision, as Law 12 of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) laws of the game in case of fouls and misconducts, violent conduct warrants a red card.
“Violent conduct is when a player uses or attempts to use excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball, or against a team-mate, team official, match official, spectator or any other person, regardless of whether contact is made,” reads part of Law 12.
A seasoned referees’ instructor who declined to be named for fear of victimisation, said Ncube correctly interpreted the laws of the game.
“Under law 12, any violent conduct by a player towards another is a sending-off offence. That Dynamos player headed the Highlanders player in an off-the-ball incident and the referee correctly flashed a red card. Violent conduct or retaliation is a dismissible offence,” said the instructor.
He questioned Chiyangwa’s decision describing it as mind-boggling.
“In my view, Chiyangwa and his buddies have set a worst precedence. What of the penalty denied to Highlanders, will he order it to be taken? What of games that are not broadcast live, will he (Chiyangwa) reverse red cards or yellow cards wrongly given to players? The focus should have been on Dynamos fans that threw missiles and balls on the field,” said the referees’ instructor.
The instructor said unlike the English FA, Zimbabwe does not have a proper structure that analyses match officials. He said the FA has experienced former referees such as their chairman David Ellery who has 17 years as a topflight referee.
He also officiated in Fifa competitions for nine years and went on to become a Fifa and Uefa referee assessor and instructor while Chiyangwa is just a businessman with no history of refereeing.
Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said they would not be making further pronouncements on the matter at this stage, referring questions to ZRC vice-chairman Gladmore Muzambi.
Muzambi said he was not aware of the decision, which brings to question which members of the referees committee Chiyangwa consulted.
“I do not know about that, I was out of the country. I did not watch the match as I only arrived late yesterday evening,” said Muzambi.
Two other members of the referees committee, who declined to be identified, said they were also not aware that the red card decision had been rescinded, a sign the decision could have been made by one person.
The decision sent shock waves, with football fans taking to social media blasting Chiyangwa and his association.
Ndumiso Gumede, a former referee, ex-Zifa vice-president and Highlanders official tweeted: “News has it the incident of headbutting that resulted in a red card, has been rescinded by some kangaroo committee of ZIFA. Shame indeed.”
In his tweet, former Chronicle editor Mduduzi Mathuthu appeared to scoff at Chiyangwa’s reason for nullifying Ntouba’s red card.
“I sought clarity from Chiyangwa by the way. He says there was so much pushing and shoving everyone should have been sent off,” Mathuthu wrote.
ZBC sportscaster Sibongumusa Dhlodhlo tweeted: “Mane faces 3 match ban for that dangerous play yet Epoupa is set free for war like action. Zim football.”
The decision according to some fans conveniently comes a week before DeMbare face champions Caps United on Sunday.
Without Ntouba who has been their leading light scoring 12 goals for them so far, DeMbare’s quest to beat champions would be difficult.
Dynamos, with two games in hand are third on the table with 49 points and trail leaders Chicken Inn by two points.
They are in the title race with Chicken Inn, Ngezi Platinum Stars as well as FC Platinum.
The football fraternity is waiting anxiously for reasons behind Chiyangwa’s decision.