MIGHTY Warriors striker Rufaro Machingura and her Black Rhinos Queens teammate Tariro Makumbe are expected to appear in court today for assaulting referee Mercy Maimbo after the NetOne Cup final match at Rufaro Stadium on Saturday.
Zifa communications manager Xolisani Gwesela said the two players, who were picked up by the police immediately after the nasty incident, are being held at Mbare Police Station on assault charges.
The offence by Machingura and Makumbe carries, at most, a fine if convicted, but football stakeholders have called for Zifa to mete out stiff punishments with others even calling for a life ban from football for the duo.
Zifa and women football boss Miriam Sibanda have both condemned the violent act by the two, who reacted angrily after their side lost the match 5-4 on penalties to Bulawayo’s Inline Academy. The army side was mum on the matter yesterday although a source revealed that the two, particularly Machingura, who is an army officer, could be in serious trouble for her behaviour.
An image of her lunging on Maimbo’s right shoulder has gone viral on social networks, damaging the army’s image.
“Rufaro has a previous record of indiscipline and while they had forgiven her in the past, I don’t think she will get away with this one. Their issue is being discussed in high offices, she is in serious trouble,” the source said.
Gwesela said calls for a life ban for the two could be improper. He said they should be punished in terms of football statutes.
“Zifa would like to condemn in strongest terms the violent attack on the referee during the NetOne Cup final on Saturday,” Gwesela said in a statement yesterday.
“In terms of laws of the game, referees are empowered to have a final decision and we would like to make it explicitly clear that referees are untouchable.
“We do not condone violence and the two culprits will inevitably face the full wrath of football statutes.
“The beautiful game of football celebrates ethos of non-violence and fair play, hence the rogue and violent behaviour of the two players cannot go unpunished.”
Sibanda told the media after the incident: “It was most unfortunate, it’s not something that we expected in the beautiful game and especially when the beautiful game is being played by women.
“What we saw was really disturbing, unbecoming of women and unfortunate. And as Zimbabwe women football we will have to apologise to our tournament sponsors for such a horrific ending.”
Football fans have also put forward their views and commenting on the picture posted on this newspaper’s website and different social networks, some are completely disgusted by the two players’ behaviour.
“Such behaviour has no place in football. I would rather have a [Luis] Suarez in my team than this thug [Machingura],” Lazzie Hacha wrote.
Said Dekepekepe: “What the girls did is not acceptable and must [be] punished accordingly, but referees must not make decisions that openly show that they are favouring another team . . . this kills soccer.”
Anesu Sithole wrote: “What she [Machingura] did was very immature and intolerable considering the fact that she also plays for the Mighty Warriors. We don’t expect such behaviour especially from ladies. Zifa should do something about this.”
Another reader who posted only as Tendayi said: “What she did was wrong, but credit should also go to the photographer [Tafadzwa Ufumeli] who managed to catch the moment, that flying kick. That was brilliant.”