Bamala’s Baggage Into Battle of Cities

It could have been the ultimate sucker-punch, a match-winning goal in time added on, which would have been the perfect execution of a spectacular smash-and-grab mission by the Green Machine.

It would have been very cruel on the hosts, who had produced a fine first-half show worth their reputation, attacking with both pace and precision, with their inspired skipper Prince Dube hitting the post twice in those 45 minutes which his team dominated.

It should have delivered goals, not the only one which Dominic Chungwa appeared to have grabbed in the last minute before a controversial call by the match officials wiped it out of the statistics, but a whole lot of others given the good chances both sides fashioned out.

The latest edition of the Battle of Cities on Sunday was certainly not a classic, like the vintage confrontation 15 years ago that produced six goals in a drawn match at Barbourfields, but it had its controversial moments that will be debated for a very long time.

Like the decision by referee Thabani Bamala, to rule that Chungwa’s late conversion after goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda had spilled an effort by midfielder Joel Ngodzo, transforming itself into the focal point of the fiery discussion that exploded after the match.

While this will certainly remain a very debatable issue, with no closure, what is clear is that it’s not an isolated incident in football.

Argentine star Sergio Agueiro was miles off-side when he headed home the winner for Manchester City in a 3-2 victory over Swansea in an FA Cup match a few weeks ago.

Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta also headed home from an offside position to help his team defeat Cardiff in an English Premiership match in Wales.

Questions, though, have to be asked about the decision to entrust the responsibility of handling that blockbuster showdown to Bamala, given the huge baggage of controversy the Kwekwe-based referee has carried when it comes to matches involving the Green Machine in Bulawayo.

Especially, when one considers the following:

Three years ago, CAPS United raised the red flag and questioned whether it was just coincidence or by design that all their three Castle Lager Premiership matches in Bulawayo that year had been handled by the same referee.

The Green Machine sought clarification from the Premier Soccer League about this scenario after it emerged that only one referee, Thabani Bamala, had been assigned to handle their league matches in the City of Kings that year.

CAPS United lost 1-2 to How Mine that season, edged Chicken Inn 2-1 in May that year and then lost 0-1 to Highlanders and, interestingly, all the three league matches in Bulawayo were under the supervision of Bamala.

The Kwekwe referee sent off Makepekepe’s forward Leonard Tsipa in the match against Bosso for violent conduct after the striker head-butted his opponent, and that proved the turning point of the game, with Highlanders eventually running out winners of that contest.

Tsipa later apologised for his moment of madness, but claimed he lost his cool after repeated complaints to Bamala that he was being targeted by the opposition were ignored by the referee.

Six years ago, the then Dynamos centreback Partson Jaure was also forced to issue any apology for his violent conduct towards Bamala at Barbourfields during a league match between the Glamour Boys and Bosso.

Jaure reacted angrily after he was sent off by Bamala in that fiery contest and then almost physically assaulted the referee amid a barrage of verbal insults directed towards the match official, before he was restrained by his teammates.

The defender was then handed a seven-match ban for his conduct.

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