HomeSportWhen the beautiful game turns ugly

When the beautiful game turns ugly

Whoever called football “the beautiful game” had probably looked at how soccer differs from the world of politics.

Final Whistle with Brian Nkiwane

As the referee blows the final whistle, ending hard-fought matches, players hug each other, exchange jerseys to show mutual respect, even though some may be weeping with frustration or joy.

Others, including the losers, go on to shake hands with match officials for a job well-done.

But when the beautiful game of football turns ugly, then stern measures should be taken against the rogue elements.

There cannot be any kind words for the action of Black Rhinos players who clearly lost to Inline Academy and reacted like barbarians. The Bulawayo-based team won this first edition of the NetOne knockout tournament in Harare, an achievement that apparently angered the Black Rhinos duo, leading them to attack the referee of the day, Mercy Maimbo.

These players, some of whom are members of the national Mighty Warriors team, should lead by example, but to everyone’s surprise, they led the barbaric attack. Players the world over ought to know that referees are untouchable; and that whoever said the referee’s decision is final was right.

There are incidents, unruly as this one, that have led to people losing their lives, and these Black Rhinos “boxers” may need to be reminded of these.

In the late 80’s, Zimbabwe saw one of the deadliest attacks on a soccer referee when Showman Tsuro was stoned by a player whom he had ejected from a match that featured Acturus Mine in Division One. The referee died and, needless to say, the culprit was arrested and did time in jail while Acturus stadium was closed and the team banned.

Not so long ago, then Masvingo United goalkeeper Muzondiwa Gonese attacked referee Philip Kawara with a double-footed lunge during a Madison Trophy semi-final match against AmaZulu at Luveve.

Gonese and his accomplice Lloyd Hlahla were handed life bans which were later overturned.

In another incident, Central Region Ngoni Tinarwo attacked referee of the match in a Division Two match that was played in Gweru in 2012 and was banned from soccer for life.

Last year Zifa slapped Dynamos defender Patson Jaure with a seven-match ban for advancing towards match official Thabani Bhamala when Dynamos played iants Highlanders in Bulawayo.

Overseas, a US football referee died last week after he was punched by a player whom he had sent off.

John Bieniewicz (44), suffered fatal head injuries when he was struck by an offending player during a park match in the US state of Michigan. He was left unconscious on the pitch until medical staff and authorities arrived, but after spending two days on life support in hospital, he was pronounced dead.

Last year, another referee Ricardo Portillo died from injuries sustained after he was punched in the head by a 17-year-old goalie. The youth punched Portillo after he was called for a foul and issued a yellow card.

These are some of the ugly scenes that go hand in hand with attacks on referees, hence players should think twice before making moves against referees.

On a different note, there is a disturbing new development in the game of soccer where ball boys are used to do unsportly things by teams. Is it that the Premier Soccer League is unaware of the abuse that ball boys go through?

The ball boys are used to delay or at times hide match balls under the touchline banners towards the end of the matches.

This has created a lot of tension, putting these kids at risk. At times the coordinator of these ball boys calls them before full-time and orders them to disappear.

The PSL should call teams and ball boys to order in order to safeguard the future of the game and the lives of these vulnerable young boys!

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