The first quarter-final showdown of the Airtel Top 8 Cup season six between Silver Strikers and Mighty Mukuru Wanderers on Saturday took an unexpected turn because of the controversial officiation by FIFA referee Godfrey Nkhakananga.
The most contentious moment of the match occurred in the second half at 92 minutes when Silver Strikers were awarded a second goal amid confusion involving a whistle blow by the referee for a free kick to Silver Strikers as Wanderers’ Isaac Kaliati handed the ball in the buildup to Stain Davie’s controversial goal.
The decision to allow the goal, while mysterious to many, stood, leading to strong protests from Mighty Mukuru Wanderers’ players and officials, leading to the abandonment of the games in added minutes.
In an interview with Nthanda Times, Sports analyst Kimu Kamau says the game is not improving as there have recently been outcry on poor officiation.
Kamau has criticized Nkhakananga’s performance, particularly in his handling of the incident.
“As a FIFA Referee, Godfrey Nkhakananga was not supposed to do what he did today. He brew a whistle in favor of Silver Strikers, and the same time, Silver scored a goal and brew another whistle. That was kind confusing to the Mighty Mukuru Wanderers. He did a very good job from the first whistle to the point where he had whistled for Silver Strikers’ second goal,” said Kamau.
He called on football authorities, specifically the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) and the National Football Referees Association (NFRA) to invest in better referee training to prevent such controversies in the future.
Kamawu pointed out that, as a FIFA Referee, Nkhakananga was expected to uphold to the 17 rules of the game and ensure consistency in decision-making.
“Going forward, FAM and NRFA should make sure that the referees are well trained. As I have said, Mr. Nkhakananga is a good referee who has been on the international scene for quite some time. As a FIFA referee, he was supposed to make sure that the decisions he is making should be decisions that are in the 17 rules of the games,” added Kamau.
Kamawu also noted the emotional response from the Mighty Mukuru Wanderers’ camp, acknowledging that football is a game of emotions but suggesting that players and officials could learn from this experience.
In a separate interview, Chris Kalichero, the General Secretary of the National Football Referees Association (NFRA), urged patience, stating that the NFRA would await reports from Nkhakananga and the match commissioner before taking any further action.
“It has just happened now, as an association, we need to wait for reports from Godfrey Nkhakananga, the match commissioner, and look at what the laws say,” said Kalichero.
Kalichero emphasized that, ultimately, the referee is in charge of the game and that overreactions from players and officials were unnecessary.
“They overreacted; the referee was the boss of the game. He was in overall charge of the game. So, there was no need for them to overreact,” he added.
Meanwhile, FAM will provide the final result once they receive full reports from the match officials.
Silver Strikers were the first to score through George Chaomba at 44 minutes, and Wanderers equalized through Gaddie Chirwa on 54 minutes, before the abandonment of the game.