Hooliganism once again reared its ugly head during another professional football match in Zimbabwe. This time the Chibuku Super Cup quarter final between Shabanie Mine and CAPS United had to be abandoned, after Makepekepe supporters threw missiles onto the pitch after an offside goal was disallowed. But unlike previous instances this time a one of the assistant referees, Thomas Kusosa, was seriously injured by one of the projectiles thrown by the spectators, leading to the game being abandoned.
In light of this, the question that needs to be asked is what will be the outcome of the match? There are two rulebooks that need to be adhered to in this case: The Official FIFA rulebook and the Official Premier Soccer League Rules and Regulations.
Law 5 of the official FIFA rulebook states:
“The referee is authorized to stop play if, in his opinion, an object thrown by a spectator hits the referee or one of the assistant referees or a player or team official. The referee may allow the match to continue, suspend play or abandon the match depending on the severity of the incident. He must, in all cases, report the incident(s) to the appropriate authorities.”
This part is very clear and straight forward. The referee acted within the rules as his assistant was injured in the Shabanie Mine/CAPS United game and he chose to abandon the game. However it is the next section that is telling in its wording.
“In no event may the referee determine the winner of any match, terminated or not. Nor may the referee decide whether or not a match must be replayed. Both of those decisions are up to the competition authority.”
The underlined part makes it clear that it is now up to the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) to decide what the outcome of the match will be based on the referees report. In this situation, specific parts section 31.1.13 of the official Premier Soccer League Rules and Regulations under “Acts Of Misconduct/Offences” deals with this specifically. They read as follows
“31.1.13 Without derogating from the generality of what constitutes misbehaviours on the part of supporters, the following are specifically declared to be acts of misbehaviour ……
….188.8.131.52 Throwing or attempting to throw missiles, bottled and other objects, whether potentially harmful or dangerous or not, on to the pitch, or at any person;
….31.1.15 It fails to protect match officials against acts, attempted acts of violence or any other form of abuse before, during or after a match. ”
These sections address what happened in the Shabanie vs CAPS United match: Projectiles being thrown and an injured referee. On the surface, especially considering the PSL’s history when dealing with abandoned matches, it would appear that Shabanie will be awarded a victory over CAPS since it was the Green Machines supporters that contributed to both incidents.
However, ZiFM Sport football analyst Alois Bunjira points out, details over how details over why the match was suspended are still unclear. If the referee’s report indicates that violence rendered the game unplayable, the Shabanie Mine may be awarded the game while CAPS get sanctioned.
On the flip side of the argument, according to Law 6 of the Official FIFA Rulebook:
“A reserve assistant referee may also be appointed under competition rules. His only duty shall be to replace an assistant referee who is unable to continue or to replace the fourth official, as required.”
In this case, it is not clear whether or not there was a replacement referee at the Shabanie/CAPS game. If there wasn’t, and the match was suspended because of that, then the fault lies with the league for failing to adhere to the official FIFA standards. In this case, CAPS United may have a case to have the match replayed.
Whatever the case may be, the PSL seriously needs to consider bolstering security at matches in order to clamp down on hooliganism before it leads to more matches being abandoned. All stakeholders in Zimbabwean football will continue to suffer if this is not addressed, as abandoned games can scare away sponsors and viewers, which affects Zimbabwean football’s image negatively. Whatever the verdict that ZIFA will eventually hand down, there will be no real winners, as the players, spectators and all other relevant stakeholders were robbed of watching an entertaining end to an otherwise tightly contested match.