Bondo gets a second chance

Robson Sharuko

Harare – Four months after suffering the embarrassment of being expelled from the 2017 COSAFA Castle Cup finals, for an alleged atrocious performance in a key group match, Botswana’s top referee Joshua Bondo has been handed the perfect opportunity to repair his damaged reputation by FIFA.

The world football governing body has handed Bondo the task of handling the big 2018 World Cup qualifier between Nigeria’s Super Eagles and Zambia’s Chipolopolo at the Uyo International Stadium in Uyo, Nigeria, this weekend.

The match is a clash between the only two teams with a chance to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, with the Nigerians leading the group with a three-point advantage over the Zambians.

Chipolopolo eased back into contention for a place in Russia after an impressive win in Algeria in the last round of qualifiers where the Super Eagles could only pick a point against bitter rivals, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, who are the current African champions.

The two nations meet in Uyo this weekend for the penultimate game in their qualifiers with the Nigerians leading the pack with 10 points and the Zambians in second place with seven points and a host of possibilities hinging on that game.

If the Super Eagles draw the match, they will qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals because the Zambians cannot overtake the Nigerians because they would have an inferior head-to-head record compared to the West African giants.

A 1-2 defeat in Ndola at the hands of the Super Eagles in the opening game of the qualifying race has been weighing down heavily on the shoulders of the Zambians who can now only wonder if only they had won that game and were the ones going into the game this weekend needing a draw to seal their ticket to Russia.

FIFA picked Bondo to take charge of the big match and, after the debacle at this year’s COSAFA Senior Men Championships in South Africa, where he was sent home in shame after a disastrous showing in a group match between Zimbabwe and Madagascar, this is his big chance for redemption.

Bondo paid a huge price for his diabolical officiating in a key group match between eventual champions Zimbabwe and Madagascar, which ended goalless, forcing the COSAFA leadership to crack the whip and expel him from the tournament.

The Batswana referee, regarded as one of the rising match officials in the region and the top match official in his country, received widespread condemnation for his shock decision to turn down two very good appeals for penalties from the Zimbabwe Warriors.

On a cold evening at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace, Bondo emerged as the big talking point of the match between the Zimbabweans and the Indian Ocean islanders with a performance that was a shame to his reputation.

Substitute forward Raphael Manuvire was clearly brought down inside the box but Bondo chose to see no evil and waved play on and, five minutes later a clear professional foul on the Zimbabwe captain Ovidy Karuru by goalkeeper Jean Randrianasolo was again ignored by the referee.

However, the COSAFA referees committee, who have adopted a zero tolerance on poor match officiating, decided to punish the 39-year-old referee by sending him home in shame from the COSAFA Castle Cup Senior Men Challenge tournament.

Bondo was one of the referees who handled the 2016 CAF African Nations Championships finals in Rwanda, the CAF Under-20 championships in Zambia, which the Junior Chipolopolo won, and the 2017 CAF African Cup of Nations finals in Gabon.

Now, world football governing body, FIFA, have given him a big chance to start his redemption exercise by taking charge of the big match in Uyo this weekend.

He will be joined by his Batswana counterparts, Oamogetse Godisamang, Tirelo Mositwane and Lesotho’s Souru Phatsoane as assistant referees while South Africa’s Carlos Manuel Neves Henriques will be referee assessor and Osama Hassan Ataaelmanan will be the match commissioner.

Nigeria will complete their qualifying campaign with an away date against Algeria while Zambia will host Cameroon.

“It will definitely be tough because it will be a do-or-die affair, we are three points behind, which we can meet up now,’’ Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene said.

“We have a good team who can do it. All the players have shown commitment and dedication. The morale is high in camp and that’s what gives us the motivation.”

“The chances to topple Nigeria are still there, we are going into that pitch with only one thing in mind – to go to Russia. Anything can happen,’’ Zambian coach Wedson Nyirenda told reporters.

“Nigeria also has a last game against Algeria and we have a last game against Cameroon at home.

“Many said it was a big gamble, our small team against a big team like Algeria, nobody trusted us, but we took six points from them.

“Football is about the plans you put in place and your application.’’

South Africa find themselves with a mountain to climb after FIFA annulled the controversial 2-1 victory over Senegal in the first game of the qualifiers with the world football governing body banning the Ghanaian referee who took charge of that match, for life, after ruling that outcome of that tie could have been compromised by match-fixers.

Joseph Lamptey, the disgraced referee, handed Bafana Bafana a ghost penalty which they converted for their winning goal.

Bafana Bafana now have one point and have to replay their game against the Senegalese but this weekend they face group leaders Burkina Faso.

The South Africans complicated matters for themselves when they lost back-to-back matches against Cape Verde islands, who had not won a match in this campaign, in these qualifiers and only a miracle can now save their World Cup campaign.

October 2017
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