Hom­ing in on poor ref­er­ee­ing de­ci­sions

Match of­fi­cials stole the thun­der in the Africa zone of the 2018 World Cup qual­i­fiers, writes Ti­mothy Molobi

CityPress - - Sport -

While four coun­tries are sit­ting pretty at the top of the 2018 World Cup qual­i­fiers af­ter col­lect­ing max­i­mum points, a few “home town” de­ci­sions have dom­i­nated the head­lines.

Nige­ria, Tu­nisia, the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo and Egypt are the only coun­tries to have amassed max­i­mum points af­ter the first two rounds of matches.

How­ever, “du­bi­ous” penalty de­ci­sions have dom­i­nated the qual­i­fiers so far, which mostly favoured the home coun­tries.

South Africa, Egypt, Cameroon and Guinea were all awarded penal­ties at the week­end at home.

Tu­nisia also scored from the penalty spot, but away in Libya.

Ghana­ian ref­eree Joseph Odartey Lamptey even sur­prised South Africans when he awarded Bafana Bafana a du­bi­ous penalty against Sene­gal, af­ter he ad­judged Kali­dou Koulibaly to have han­dled in­side the box, al­though the ball was nowhere near his hand as it came off his leg. Bafana won the match 2-1.

In Limbe, Cameroon, Malang Died­hiou of Sene­gal awarded the In­domitable Li­ons a spot kick in their game against Zam­bia, which led to their equaliser. The game ended in a 1-all draw.

Mo­hamed Salah gave Egypt the lead in Alexan­dria af­ter a spot kick when Gabon ref­eree Eric Otogo-Cas­tane awarded them a penalty in the game against Ghana. Egypt won the game 2-0.

Sidi Alioum also awarded Guinea a penalty but Sey­douba Soumah’s strike was not enough to pre­vent them from go­ing 21 down to the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo in Con­akry.

In the open­ing round of the qual­i­fiers, Burk­ina Faso were awarded two penalty kicks by Moroc­can ref­eree Re­douane Jiyed in Oua­gadougou.

How­ever, a for­mer top ref­eree did not be­lieve match of­fi­cials were out to fix games and de­nied th­ese were home-town de­ci­sions, but that they were un­for­tu­nate mis­takes.

The of­fi­cial, who did not want to be iden­ti­fied, said he did not be­lieve the of­fi­cials would de­lib­er­ately cheat.

“For ex­am­ple, the ref­eree [Lamptey] who was of­fi­ci­at­ing the South Africa game is in line to go to the World Cup and I don’t think he would jeop­ar­dise that op­por­tu­nity. I saw the penalty he awarded the home team and it was the as­sis­tant’s call, but ob­vi­ously ev­ery­one looks at him as he is the one who blew [the whis­tle],” said the of­fi­cial.

He said Lamptey was also in line to go to the 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Na­tions in Gabon and would not risk that ei­ther.

“There is so much at stake for the match of­fi­cials and I think th­ese were hon­est mis­takes on their part. Why do you specif­i­cally talk about penal­ties and not other in­fringe­ments that were out­side the penalty box?” he asked.

The next round of the qual­i­fiers in Au­gust should give a clear in­di­ca­tion of the five coun­tries most likely to rep­re­sent the con­ti­nent in Rus­sia in 2018.

In­ter­est­ingly, Tu­nisia and the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo, who are tied at the top of Group A, will have to fight it out as they face one an­other in back-to-back matches in the next round of the qual­i­fiers.

Uganda’s Cranes will also have to dis­pose of Egypt at the top of Group E in their next fix­tures – home and away – if they are to make his­tory and qual­ify for their maiden World Cup.

PHOTO: PHILIP MAETA / GALLO IMAGES

CON­FRONTA­TION Ge­ofrey Massa (left) of Baroka FC and Mario Booy­sen of Su­perS­port United go for the ball dur­ing their Absa Premier­ship match at Peter Mok­aba Sta­dium in Polok­wane yes­ter­day

PHOTO: SA­MUEL SHIVAMBU / BACKPAGEPIX

BLOW­ING THE WHIS­TLE Joseph Odartey Lamptey awarded Bafana a penalty that was dis­puted by Sene­gal

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