Call for tougher penalties in football

The two abandoned matches emanated from controversial goals leading to fans invading the pitch,

TET another Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) match was abandoned on Thursday this week bringing to two the games which have prematurely ended since the local football season started in March.

The game between seasoned PSL campaigners, Dynamos and new arrivals in the topflight, Chegutu Pirates, was ended in the dying minutes following crowd trouble after the latter’s fans felt cheated when the centre referee awarded the former a seemingly controversial goal when the game seemed headed for a 0-0 draw.

What seems to have infuriated the Chegutu Pirates crowd was that the centre referee decided to consult the assistant referee who apparently is said to have consulted a cameraman at the match who could have caught on camera the goalmouth drama around the disputed goal.

PSL teams have thus far played eight games out of 34 earmarked for this season and at this rate we could see more matches ending in a huff given that we are still playing our football in ancient times.

What do we mean by this?

While the world is now in the 21st century in terms of settling contentious issues on the football pitch through the video assistant referee (VAR), here in Zimbabwe this proposition is still preposterous, yet we could really do with VAR, a match official who “assists the centre referee by reviewing decisions using video footage and providing advice to the referee based on those reviews” to help us develop our football beyond abandoning matches when disputes occur.

While it is pretty obvious that from the dynamics involved in introducing VAR in our football, we are still light years away in ancient times, we believe we can, however, start somewhere and the recently abandoned match and the other one between FC Platinum and Caps United present good case studies for us to do something about this issue.

The two abandoned matches emanated from controversial goals leading to fans invading the pitch, so we suggest that, as a starting point, PSL and the Zimbabwe Football Association should cast it in stone that any team or fans of a team found guilty of prematurely ending a game would be immediately chucked out of the league for a year or so.

Harsh as it may sound, this is the only way we can bring discipline to this world’s most beautiful game which we are blemishing through our barbarian behaviour of invading pitches and throwing stones at each other like some prehistoric wars.

If harsh penalties are introduced, while we wait to migrate into the modern world of VAR, it will help bring sanity at our football matches because our football grounds risk turning into war zones if we handle this very serious issue with a kid’s gloves.

Last year, only one PSL match between Highlanders and Dynamos was abandoned and this year two matches have already been stopped prematurely, meaning that the scourge is increasing and does not augur well for our football.

Awarding wronged teams points and fining those found guilty of causing premature end to matches will never help us in these ancient times of our football. Teams and their fans should attend matches clearly aware that if they misbehave it would be the last time they will enjoy the game for quite some time to empower our referees.

We, however, strongly believe that the match officials should never ever solicit assistance from people not involved in match officiating as was the case in the abandoned match between Dynamos and Chegutu Pirates.

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