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The double-edged sword of Norman Mapeza’s referees’ outburst



ISSUING threats to quit football in protest over referees’ officiating might be taking it too far, but Norman Mapeza’s outburst on Monday isn’t a jolt from the blue, to those who know the man well.


He prefers to shoot from the hip, an aura of smugness about him, Jose Mourinho-style, something that doesn’t make the former Zimbabwe captain everybody’s cup of tea.

After bring beaten by Herentials in Harare at the beginning of the week, the FC Platinum coach swore to football Press corps who gathered around him for the post-match interview that he would walk away from the game if the standards of Zimbabwe’s PSL refereeing remained shockingly poor as he claimed to be the factor behind his side’s defeat on Monday.

The general sentiment is that refereeing standards have never been lower in this country, and so Mapeza’s furious reaction to Lawrence Zimondi’s decisions.

But labelling referees and questioning their motives is in itself subjective. Referees are human, too. Although some of the decisions are unthinkably wrong on occasions, others are simply genuine errors, and we are all mere mortals prone to mistakes.

As such, I’ve tried to examine Mapeza’s fury from a position of a broader context of things, without looking at the Herentials game in isolation.

First, one would imagine that for a club that has dominated the Zimbabwean league over the past four years, and the new season still in its infancy, surely a loss the Herentials should be seen as just a minor setback, given also that Platinum aren’t terribly behind the leading pack early on.

Is Mapeza trying to make a statement that goes far beyond the Herentials game, to put the whistle-men under pressure, and control how referees handle matches involving Platinum over the full season?

If that is the case, it would be extremely unfair, especially to the good and competent guys in the middle who however, alongside the bad apples, already are subjected to a torrent of abuse from the stands week-in-week-out, their dignity trampled on at will.

It’s a double-edged debate, though, which stirs up the crucial question in the end: is the standard of refereeing that low in the country, and are there any referees prone to biased officiating? The answer is YES. Herein lies the importance of Mapeza’s rage on Monday – to make match officials accountable, and every step scrutinised, especially the errant ones.

In the end this could benefit not only Mapeza and Platinum. An incident-free season will deliver a credible outcome, as well as worth winners that everybody is happy to respect and honour. 

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