By Mthokozisi Dube
THE absence of Zimbabwean referees at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) which is currently underway in Cameroon has once again exposed the poor standard of match officiating in the country.
Debate on how the standards of Zimbabwean football match officiating have fallen has been ignited after Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe stole world headlines for blowing the final whistle in the AFCON encounter between Mali and Tunisia before the 90 minutes were up.
So poor was the Zambian referee’s performance that he blew the final whistle in the 85th minute before recalling the players and again ending the match in the 89 minutes.
Sikazwe also ignored Video Assistant Referees’ decision to overturn a red card issued to Mali substitute El Bilal Toure in the 87th minute.
However, even with this poor standard of match officiating at AFCON, there is still no Zimbabwean referee.
Save for respected referees like Felix Tangawarima and Brighton Mudzamiri who have officiated at AFCON, Zimbabwe has not had many football officials taking charge of matches on the international stage.
Former Zimbabwean referee, Joseph Mususa says consistency is key, urging the local crop of referees in the CAF elite B category to break into the international stage.
“What we need to do as a nation is to have referees that are consistent in terms of their performance and the performance that we are talking about is high-class performance. Presently in terms of selection for AFCON, referees need to be in the elite A panel of referees so that they are eligible for selection and the country at the moment does not have anyone in that category.
“The main reason those one or two who have been able to meet the criteria failed their fitness tests and as a result, they were unable to maintain their positions on the elite A. But we have a crop of referees in the elite B who if given the chance may make a breakthrough.”
During his football career spanning 20 years from 1985 to 2005, Mususa had the privilege of officiating during the 2005 CAF Champions League quarterfinal match between Asec Mimosas of Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria’s Dolphins.