Drama As Referees withdraw services, PSL cancels matches
The Castle Lager Premier Soccer League was thrown into disarray by the suspension of the Zifa board and forced to cancel all league games yesterday after the national association allegedly withdrew all match officials.
The Zifa board was suspended by the Sports and Recreation Commission over a litany of charges yesterday, which range from mismanagement to sexual harassment of female referees.
The PSL was caught unaware by the Zifa move and informed clubs of the postponement after lengthy warm-ups and match officials’ no-show.
“All the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League Match-day two fixtures scheduled for this week have been postponed.
This has been necessitated by the non-appearance of match officials at all match venues today. However, some of the match officials had travelled from various parts of the country and had logged in for team inspections only to withdraw their services before commencement of team warm-ups.
“The PSL is concerned about the lack of communication from the Zifa Referees Committee as we tried to engage them on the matter to no avail,” the PSL said in a statement.
At Barbourfields Stadium where Highlanders were meant to clash against Ngezi Platinum Stars, a team of match officials led by Hwange-based referee Mhaka Magare arrived at the venue, inspected the field and then disappeared after informing a gateman that they were going to get refreshments.
Magare was in the company of assistants Michael Zulu and Phikisani Ndlovu, as well as fourth official Hardly Ndazi. Warren Phiri was the designated match commissioner of the day.
Both Highlanders and Ngezi teams went through their warm-up drills with the hope that the referees will return, only for the game to be called off at 3.30PM.
When news started filtering that referees had disappeared, fans outside the stadium decided not to pay, waiting for a signal from those that had made their way into the stadium earlier.
An estimated 100 people had paid their way into Barbourfields Stadium and when it became clear that the match would not be played, fans at the Soweto End of the stadium went to the Grandstands demanding refunds.
PSL marketing and IT manager Rodwell Thabe and Highlanders’ treasurer calmed the crowd, and asked them to keep their tickets for future use.
“We want our money back. We paid for no service and can’t part with US$10 for nothing,” said one fan Lindani Dhlomo.
“These guys knew that they would call off the games; why then did they allow gates to be opened. These referees or Zifa should have told the clubs that the matches won’t be played because now even the teams have incurred expenses.
Who will compensate the clubs?” asked Gertrude Sibanda.
Highlanders went into camp on Monday night, while Ngezi travelled from Mhondoro to camp in Bulawayo on the eve of the game.
Bulawayo Chiefs made the long trip to Mutare for a date with Cranborne Bullets from Harare who have adopted Sakubva Stadium as their home ground, and both teams accumulated travelling and camping costs in vain.
Dynamos had made the trip to the Lowveld for a date with Triangle United, while both Yadah and ZPC Kariba left their bases in Harare and the resort town to Baobab Stadium in Mhondoro.
Herentals were due to play against Black Rhinos at the National Sports Stadium.
Games that had been scheduled for today are the FC Platinum and Chicken Inn game at Mandava Stadium, and the Caps United vs Harare City match at the National Sports Stadium.
Bulawayo City were set to host Manica Diamonds tomorrow at Barbourfields Stadium, while Tenax were billed to host Whawha at Sakubva Stadium.
Besides clubs incurring costs for the ill-fated games, PSL broadcast partners Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN), which was supposed to livestream the Bosso and Ngezi match was left to count its losses after the station’s production crew travelled to Bulawayo from Harare and even set up equipment at the stadium for the no show.
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