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BF: The referee and the police

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Highlanders versus Dynamos: it could have been a game that was a tale of two halves-the real battle of Zimbabwe Part Two.

It was game which Highlanders dominated for the first 45 minutes and could have buried Dynamos under an avalanche of goals had their taken their chances.

In the second half, Dynamos dominated and it was clear they would get an equaliser-and even a winner-after the introduction of ‘senator’ Desmond Maringwa-and did not need the assistance of dubious refereeing to get maximum points.

One would certainly feel pity for referee of the year, Thabani Mkantjo, who is always viewed with suspicions when he handles Highlanders-Dynamos matches.

He has been given most of the big ties between the two teams and Highlanders have always come second best.

It was no different from Sunday-a denied penalty when Guthrie Zhokinyi handled in the box was to set the tonic for the mayhem later when Dynamos equalised six minutes from the end of regulation time.

This was after a circus which saw Mkantjo contradicting him first assistant when it came a thrown in in the 84th minute.

Francis Kanda was injured in a ball tussle with Brighton Tuwaya having the last touch of the ball and Gift Lunga guided the ball out of touch to allow for the injury to be attended to with assistant Salani Ncube correctly signaling a Highlanders throw in.

Highlanders players positioned themselves to received the thrown but at that moment-that crucial moment for Mkantjo, he signalled a Dynamos thrown in, which the visitors quickly took and Evans Gwekwerere lobbed keeper Ariel Sibanda who was already out of line.

No protest from Highlanders players and fans and obviously, all seemed in place until Zhokinyi-the man who was not penalised for the first half handball-headed home the winner from a free-kick.

Clearly, there was a boil over from the fans, from the two incidencies during the match and the unfinished BancABC semi-final between the two teams.

Logic would say, perhaps the league’s chiefs were wrong in fixturing the two teams when the where still unresolved matters between the two.

Amid the rain of missiles, fans turned on the power, brought down the fence at the Soweto stands while the police watched helplessly and when they (fans) were done, they simply fled the stadium and went home.

Then the police got into action, fired teargas and water into the few helpless fans on the stands, who had their hands up surrendering.

The police would have none of that, and fired more canisters in addition to cleaning the stands with water and then followed some of the fans out of the stadium.

Here, running battles were fought between
Barbourfields, Nguboyenja and Mzilikazi.

And when it was clear that fans were fleeing, the police decided not to let up-they followed up and innocent mothers and children, people who were coming from church, visiting the sick at Mpilo Central Hospital were all affected by the teargas.

Cars were stoned, some turned back by the rowdy fans, obviously angry at their treatment by the police and had to use Victoria Falls road to get into town.

Infact, the action by the police made the fans even more riotous.

Back in the stadium, things seemed to be in order for the last four minutes of the games to be played and just when Mkantjo’s day was about to be saved, the police spoiled it again.

Teargas found its way into the stadium, and as Fifa would always recommend, flee into the pitcher when there is trouble on the stands. The fans flowed into the pitch when the kitchen got hooter with teargas engulfing the whole stadium.

The fans fled, the players filed into the dressing rooms and the smiled at a long day’s hard work.

Football fans and prospective sponsors deserve better, better playing teams do not need assistance from match officials to win.

And while Highlanders will be dragged before a disciplinary hearing to answer charges of their fans behaviour, together with Dynamos for their fans hauling of missiles to goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda, the police and the referee did not need to interfere in the destiny of the game.

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