Poor officiating grabbed centre stage when the valiant Warriors held Liberia 1-1 in the opening 2012 African Cup of Nations soccer qualifier match in Monrovia on Sunday as controversial Benin referee Koffi Codja continued to hog the limelight for the wrong reasons.
The true scoresheet must have read: Bonaventure Koffi Codjia 1, Zimbabwe 1, while after Zimbabwe were robbed it officially read: Liberia 1, Zimbabwe 1.
Sudan-based Warrior Edward Sadomba was not amused by the events at the Samuel Kanyon Doe (SKD) sports complex saying this was “not football”.
“People like this referee are the ones who drag Africa’s name in the mud. He is a shameless person. He was blowing fouls against us when we were the victims.
“Every throw-in belonged to Liberia. He even tried to influence the game after he awarded Liberia a free kick near the box in injury time. Luckily we survived,” said the former Dynamos winger.
Indeed, Zimbabwe deserved a win in the West African country but were hard done by the exploits of the once-suspended Codjia. With more precision, the Warriors could have scored at least four goals but were denied by the brilliance of Lone Star goalkeeper Samuel Seah.
The goalkeeper twice denied what looked like obvious goals. Former Caps United midfielder Tafadzwa Rusike had the visitors’ fans on their feet in the 59th minute when his blistering shot after being squared in the box by Sadomba on the right flank was coolly saved by Seah.
Lionel Mtizwa was the next to be denied by the brilliant Seah when his screamer from about 30 metres was again blocked after Sadomba had roasted his markers on the left flank.
After an early onslaught on the Liberia goalmouth, Knowledge Musona could have grabbed the opener in the eighth minute but his effort after capitalising on a defensive blunder by the hosts went wide with just Seah to beat.
The Lone Star, who had a vociferous crowd behind them, never stamped their authority on the match except in incidents where Codjia was generous to them.
There is no doubt about the talent in Russia-based playmaker Sekou Jabateh Oliseh but he cut a lone figure as the other Liberia players did not come to the party.
South Africa-based captain Anthony Laffor showed glimpses of brilliance but he played to the gallery whenever he was in possession.
As for the Warriors, it would appear Sadomba, Poland-based Clemence Matawu and Ashley Rambanapasi had subdued performances.
Sadomba would not be involved in the thick of things while Matawu was cautious of aggravating his ankle injury.
Rambanapasi sometimes lost the radar. But credit must go to Cyprus-based right back Noel Kaseke who displayed a dazzling performance hardly putting his foot wrong with clear-cut forward forays.
Skipper Method Mwanjali was the rock in defence thwarting every offensive move by the hosts in a sweeper’s role.
The good thing about this team is that they managed to weather all odds against them to force a positive result away from home.
The Warriors were checked into a brothel-like hotel with no electricity and water in downtown Monrovia.
The tyres of their bus were punctured by Liberian fans in a clear case of sabotage after their training session on Saturday.
The players had to endure three hours of horror at the SKD sports complex before they were taken to the dingy hotel again.
It was the only intervention of the host country’s government that helped the situation for the Warriors after they were taken to a much better hotel near the match venue.
Credit must also go to Zimbabwean policemen serving in the United Nations peacekeeeping force in that country for working hard to make the Warriors comfortable.