By Rusunguko Shone
If Paris Saint Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir staged a joint walk out of a UEFA Champions League match protesting racism by a reserve referee, why didn’t FC Platinum and Simba SC walk out over Burundi referee Georges Gatogato’s wrong penalty call?
What has more effects on the outcome of a match, a racist statement or a bad call by the referee?
For long, referees’ mistakes have been sanitised as permissible human error, and never really punished by responsible authorities.
And it has destroyed the quality of the beautiful game the world over. Until referees are made to account for their decisions, they will continue to deliberately exert subtle but decisive influence on the outcome of matches.
FC Platinum was robbed when Gatogato awarded Simba SC a penalty that never was.
Where an infringed player chooses to tumble should not be the referee’s concern, but where the infringement occurred is what should concern the referee.
Yes, there is no Video Assistant Referee, but how does the Confederation of African Football’s refereeing division explain that the near side assistant referee failed to see where the foul began and ended outside the box?
The eventual score line of 4-0 flattered Simba SC, making it look like Sven Vandenbroeck tactically outwitted his opposite Norman Mapeza by a country mile.
It was far from that. Ralph Kawondera fluffed a glorious chance at 1-0, and FC Platinum had a fair share of chances to change the outcome.
What Mapeza and his team were not prepared for was the referee’s game plan to frustrate them. The players were wound up by Gatogato’s erroneous penalty call, and from then on, they lost their heads, literally.
It’s like they forgot why they had walked onto the pitch just over half an hour earlier.
FC Platinum continued to play into the hands of the referee and Gatogato continued to manipulate the situation, quickly turning from villain to victim.
Frustrated FC Platinum players constantly mobbed him after every other decision, but he remained calm and never brandished cautions when he was justified to do so.
Gatogato played out his script to perfection to the extent that neutrals were left lamenting FC Platinum players’ bad conduct rather than the referee’s catastrophic call.
Gatogato deliberately timed his ‘mistake’ in the last 10 minutes of the first half, a phase of the match when defenders are prone to lose concentration and make rash tackles in dangerous areas. What he did not quickly think through in that split second was the position where Tawana Chikore committed the foul.
Where to now?
FC Platinum has matured into a real competitor if their two home matches against Simba SC and Costa do Sol are anything to go by.
FC Platinum has to learn to manage games better. The biased officiating they suffered in Tanzania will continue to happen to them in future away matches.
It is not punished in Africa, especially when Zimbabwean clubs are involved. It happened to Dynamos in the Champions League final in 1998. Two decades later we are still having the same conversations.
Beat the enemy at their own game. There is no reward for saints in the dark world of African football.