ZIFA are keeping a tight lid on the referee who will call the shots during the potentially explosive Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) tie between Highlanders and defending champions Dynamos at Barbourfields Stadium on Sunday apparently because of fears of match-fixing.
Usually match officials are announced a few days prior to the match. In 2011, there was controversy as Zifa sidelined local match officials for the high-profile Mbada Diamonds Cup semi-final duel between Dynamos and FC Platinum at Barbourfields, preferring instead to fly in three South African referees Victor Hlungwane and his assistants Sandile Dilikane and Leon Mnqibisa claiming local match officials were susceptible to receiving bribes to fix matches.
However, local referees blasted Zifa for rushing to endorse the untested corruption claims by hiring foreign referees. In Europe, usually referees to officiate in certain matches could be known even a week before the match. Last month, top referee Howard Webb was announced as the man in the middle for the Manchester derby pitting Man U and Man City five days before the clash.
Zifa communications manager Xolisani Gwesela declined to disclose the identity of the referees to handle the Bosso-DeMbare match yesterday saying they would be known on match day.
“You can ask the PSL as our affiliate, but I know they will be known on the match day,” Gwesela said. But acting Zimbabwe Referees Committee president Ndumiso Gumede said the identity of the referee would be kept a secret to avoid corruption.
“The referees’ appointment committee would inform the referee’ who will handle the match between Highlanders and Dynamos by end of day today (yesterday),” he told Southern Eye.
“This is being done so that referee gets time to psyche up ahead of the game.
“The match commissioner will be announced tomorrow (today).
“If we announce the referee some people will want to use Ecocash and give him money.
“We do not want to announce the referee because we once had a situation where a referee was followed all the way to Kezi.
“We want to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on the referee.”
The Zifa vice-president said the association would ensure the high profile clash would be handled by the best referees’ on the land.
“The referees’ committee is going to use the very best referees for the epic battle,” Gumede said.
“This is an opportunity to whoever will be assigned to handle this game as it will be beamed live on SuperSport. “We do not want a situation whereby the match is stopped for about 10 minutes and the referee is caught in controversy.
“There are those who will spoil the match by deliberately hurting other players. Let the referee make his own decision.
“I will give an example when one is at the airport, there are dogs that are specially trained to sniff substances that are against the law.
“But if I take my dog from Inyathi to the airport, the dog will not be able to sniff anything it is not trained for.” Dynamos raised the issue over the appointment of referees yesterday when chairman Kenny Mubuiwa was quoted claiming top referee Hardley Ndazi of Matabeleland North was always biased against DeMbare.
Mubaiwa appeared to insinuate if Ndazi was allowed to handle the match he would be biased against DeMbare. However, Gumede said teams would not be allowed to cherry pick match officials.
“If we respond to such indirect requests then we will see Chicken Inn saying they do not want a certain referee. Highlanders will also say they do not want (Norman) Matemera,” he said.
“So the referees’ committee will select a competent referee.”
Matemera handled the controversial first match between Dynamos and Highlanders at Rufaro Stadium where DeMbare secured a late equaliser against Bosso.
Patson Jaure secured a point for Dynamos in a match where striker Njabulo Ncube appeared to have settled the match with a second-half goal in the 51st minute.
Jaure, was lucky to escape expulsion after a kung-fu kick on Milton Ncube before scrambling home the equaliser. But observers argued the match should have ended well before the goal was scored.