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Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
FORMER Zimbabwean referee Wilfred Mukuna last week officiated at the high-profile exhibition match between Barcelona and South Africa champions Mamelodi Sundowns at the FNB Stadium.
Mukuna was seconded by ZIFA after SAFA had requested for a match commissioner of integrity to lead out the teams in the Mandela Centenary Cup, which attracted a full house at FNB Stadium.
And it was a refreshing sight for Zimbabwe to see one of their own leading a galaxy of stars that included Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho.
Mukuna, who is now a CAF match commissioner, said he was not overwhelmed by the occasion.
“With all respects, when one is called for duty he has to do it to his best. In that particular game I was representing Zimbabwe, as usual. We feel very proud to have been part of that match and to the fact that SAFA indicated they wanted someone specifically from this country.
“Sometimes we get a bit of happiness when we get involved in such high-profile events and get to mingle with such kind of people. I tell you most of these stars are very humble people.
“Talk of Iniesta, Messi, they are very humble guys. It was inevitable, we had to interact with the players. I was also happy meeting our own boys Peter Ndlovu, Khama Billiat and Esrom Nyandoro.
“But this has been my profession for many years. I have been there for some time now and in the line of duty you get that opportunity of getting up close with the stars.
“Over the years I have had interactions with some of the top players from the continent, the likes of Nwankwo Kanu, Kalusha Bwalya, the late Stephen Keshi, you name them.
“But at the end of the day it’s not about me. We give glory to God because he makes things happen. I wasn’t doing this for myself. Like I said, I was representing Zimbabwe.
“Without the support from the people in this country it would not have been possible for me.
“This game in South Africa was just another call of duty. So it was a massive moment, although I treated it like any other game. Usually when we are out there we don’t look at the names.’’
Mukuna said the laws of the game will always come first.
“Of course, there are stars in the team but the laws of the game apply to everybody equally.
Probably the difference is that in these high profile games there is a lot of activity going around.
“These are the kind of games that need extra vigilance because some people will always be looking for that opportunity to get closer to the stars and probably get a photo.
“Twice we had to stop some fans who had jumped onto the arena at FNB to reach out to the Barcelona team. These are some of the things you have to be on the lookout,” said Mukuna.