IN 1993, it was Jean Fidel Diramba who was Zambia’s enemy number one.
The Gabonese bias officiating saw the Chipolopolo succumb 1-0 to Morocco when a draw in Casablanca would have been enough to take Zambia to its maiden World Cup appearance in 1994. In Uyo, last Saturday, Botswana referee Joshua Bondo, 39, contrived with his fellow Batswana Tirelo Mositwane to deny Zambia a clear Augustine ‘Diego’ Mulenga after 22 minutes. Mulenga was played onside by not one but two Nigerian defenders on the far right. A match that started pregnant with so much promise ended in a bitter abortion of the Russia 2018 World Cup dream-no thanks to refereeing injustice. A replay of substitute Alex Iwobi’s goal with 18 minutes left on the clock shows that a marginally offside Idion Igalo attempted a back flick on the Arsenal bench warmer’s shot which could have distracted Zambia skipper Kennedy Mweene. That Nigeria goal could have easily been offside. Those two crucial moments decided the match for the Super Eagles to become the first African country to book their ticket to the World Cup in Russia. Bondo was plain incompetent. And this should not come as a Christmas surprise. This fellow started refeering after stopping playing football for his local club Hartlepool, a third division club in the Selebi-Phikwe region of Botswana in 2001. Reason? He was so cross with a referee in one match that he decided to quit playing football at the age of 23 so that he could referee and be a better match official! After 16 years Bondo has arrived at the top of the game. He is considered one of the best rising referees from Southern Africa. But controversy is like second nature to Bondo. In March, 2017 Bondo made headlines for the wrong reasons. He appeared to have head-butted Angola’s Musuekama Natael after penalising him for a fouling a Bafana Bafana player in an international friendly at the Buffalo City Stadium. Later in June 2017, Bondo was in real hot soup. He was unceremoniously chucked out of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Castle Cup in South Africa after he failed to award eventual champions Zimbabwe two legitimate looking penalties against Madagascar. On June 28, 2017, an official press report from COSAFA did not mince its words on Bondo’s horror show: “Controversial refereeing calls overshadowed the top of the table clash in Group B at the COSAFA Cup as Zimbabwe and Madagascar played out a goalless draw at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace.” He resurrected in Uyo to cause Zambia a major heart-break. And as you might imagine, his Facebook page is littered with some pleasantries from his neighbours from the land of the Chipolopolo. Bondo is the fall guy for Zambia’s exit. But unfortunate injuries to poacher Brian Mwila and the dangerous Patson Daka who failed to beat a late fitness test, meant Wedson Nyirenda had to start with the much maligned Alex Ng’onga. The well-structured Power Dynamos striker accounted himself very well keeping the Nigerian backline on their toes in a splendid first half. The former Gabon based striker produced an outrageous piece of magic to evade his marker early on, had a ferocious left shot pushed onto the post and one really bad miss when clear on goal. Many fans believe if that chance had fallen to either Daka or Mwila, it would have been tucked away nicely. Some stupid slobs must be brought to book for destroying Ng’onga’s mother, Charity’s Chimwemwe house under the guise of her son’s misses. Fashion Sakala did not cover himself in glory and could have been replaced earlier than the unfortunate Chisamba Lungu. Lungu is a flair player who is not flourishing in Nyirenda’s new philosophy of high pressing football. Credit that the Turkey based is not sulking publicly. Going forward, we need strength in depth from the bench including olive branches extended. Nyirenda has built a strong team now. The positives point to a bright future. Without the bad Bondo calls, Chipolopolo could still be on the road to Russia. Diramba, sorry, Bondo helped Nigeria qualify.