By Robson Sharuko
Custodians of laws governing international football have said television footage of the disputed goal Dynamos scored on Sunday, which sparked the abandonment of the biggest club game on the domestic front, is inconclusive to determine whether it should have stood or disallowed for offside.
On Tuesday, The Herald sent television footage of the disputed goal to the International Football Association Board – the organisation in charge of the Laws of the Game and who draft amendments – for them to review and provide a determination to help clear some of the mist created by the controversy sparked by that incident.
The material, which this newspaper sent to the IFAB, includes television footage captured from SuperSport’s live coverage of the latest edition of the league showdown between the country’s two biggest football clubs.
The footage was reviewed by IFAB technical director David Elleray, a retired 62-year-old international refereeing expert who spent 12 seasons on the English Premiership’s elite panel of referees and eight years on the FIFA panel.
Elleray recently spent 18 months leading the revision of the Laws of the Game, to bring them up to date, in the biggest revamp of the rules and regulations since the 1930s.
He presented the amended regulations to FIFA in March last year and, given his extensive experience as a referee and the work he has undertaken in revising the laws of the game since became the IFAB technical director, the Englishman is the most qualified expert in the world to pronounce judgment on any incident related to refereeing in the world football.
And, after viewing the footage sent by The Herald, which has provided the foundation for a furious debate in this country as to whether the Dynamos goal should either have been allowed to stand or disallowed for offside, the IFAB technical chief said it was ‘unfortunate’ the footage did not show whether the ball’s contact with the Bosso defender’s leg/foot was conclusive for him to make a determination.
The world football refereeing expert’s decision to reserve judgment on the incident is an indictment on those who have quickly gone into overdrive to pass judgment on the incident and, in the process, played a huge part in polluting the toxic atmosphere which has been prevailing since that big game was abandoned.
Elleray’s pronouncement apparently supports the position taken by ZIFA Referees Committee chief Gladmore Muzambi who said his organisation needed more time to review television footage, of that decisive moment, with different angles rather than use the one-dimensional footage which has been circulating on some social media platforms, before they can make an informed decision.
Crucially, it also shows that, contrary to the widely-held view that this was a straight-forward case, in which assistant referee Thabani Kusosa – who has borne the brunt of criticism from those who say he failed to pick out that DeMbare forward Christian Ntoupa Epoupa was miles offside when the ball ricocheted to him before he scored the disputed goal, the reality is that it’s both technical and complex.
And, if the guru of the laws of refereeing like Elleray can ask for more angles, and evidence, to provide a correct judgment, how then would a man who needed a split decision to make his call, without the aid of different angles of replays, be crucified by those who have been saying Kusosa made a monumental blunder on Sunday?
While it’s still likely that the assistant referee might have blundered, by making a wrong call, depending on what the footage from different angles could produce, if ever it is found in a game where coverage was largely one-dimensional, what has become clear is that it’s not as straight forward as some have been suggesting.
According to Elleray, what remains crucial – in the determination of whether Ntoupa was off-side or not – is whether there was an attempt by the defender Peter Muduhwa to block the ball from Elisha Muroiwa, and if his foot moved, or didn’t move towards the ball, and it’s that thin line that makes the difference in making the Cameroonian either onside or offside.
Sadly, from the footage he reviewed, a determination couldn’t be made either way.
“Thank you very much for the further information and the clip,” Elleray said in his response.
“Unfortunately, the angle of the footage means it does not show whether the contact with the defender’s leg/foot is a result of the player moving his leg /foot towards the ball or not.
“If he moved his foot towards the ball then it would be deliberate play and thus not offside.
“If he does not make that movement, given that the ball is hit quite hard and from short distance, then it would be a deflection and thus offside.”
Elleray had earlier provided the basis on which Law 11, in such a scenario, could be interpreted.
If a defending player ‘deflects’ *a pass from an opponent which immediately goes to a player who was in an offside position then that player can be penalised for offside.
If a defending player deliberately plays the ball and it goes to a player who was in an offside position then that player is not penalised for offside.
It does not matter if the ball does not go where the defender intended, if he played the ball deliberately then the Law does not exist to ‘save’ his poor play.
In simple terms a ‘deflection’ is when the player does not move towards the ball or make an attempt to play it (in effect he is ‘hit’ by the ball).”
The big match was abandoned after 42 minutes with the scores at 1-1.
The incident has divided the domestic football family with Bosso fans adamant that the Cameroonian was miles offside and his strike should have been ruled out.
The DeMbare family, of course, have said their striker was on side and the assistant referee was right to allow his goal to stand.
A number of refereeing experts, on the domestic front, have failed to agree on whether or not the goal should have been allowed to stand. The Herald