Ntouba falls into Tsipa trap

By Robson Sharuko

Last year it was CAPS United’s forward Leonard Tsipa and on Sunday it was the turn of Dynamos’ Cameroonian hotshot Christian Ntouba with both strikers being expelled for the same offence — headbutting defender Peter Muduhwa.

FROM HERO TO ZERO…..Dynamos goal scorer Christian Epoupa Ntouba (left) walks off the pitch as referee Arnold Ncube brandishes a red card to him for head butting Highlanders player Peter Muduhwa in a goal mouth melee during the closing stages of yesterday’s Premiership soccer match at Rufaro.-Picture by Memory Mangobe
FROM HERO TO ZERO…..Dynamos goal scorer Christian Epoupa Ntouba (left) walks off the pitch as referee Arnold Ncube brandishes a red card to him for head butting Highlanders player Peter Muduhwa in a goal mouth melee during the closing stages of the Premiership soccer match at Rufaro.-Picture by Memory Mangobe

Both strikers’ expulsions came at a time when they were firmly in the race for the Golden Boot award, which Tsipa went on to win last year with 11 goals in 22 league matches for the Green Machine, while Ntoupa is odds-on favourite to win this year’s award as he has already scored 12 goals.

Interestingly, both dismissals came in the second half of the two matches and at a time when the battles were all square.

Tsipa — who admits his fiery temper occasionally let him down during his career — was sent off in the 54th minute of the Battle of the Cities showdown between Highlanders and CAPS United on July 17 last year for head-butting Muduhwa at Barbourfields when that explosive match was still goalless.

Bosso then took full advantage of their numerical superiority to beat the Green Machine 1-0, with Bruce Kangwa grabbing the all-important goal, as the Bulawayo giants shot to the top of the Castle Lager Premiership table at the halfway mark of the race.

However, CAPS United — without the suspended Tsipa — dominated the reverse fixture a week later with Dominic Chungwa scoring the winner in a 1-0 victory at the National Sports Stadium.

The Green Machine won 10 of their 15 second round league matches, including that victory over Bosso and drew four and lost only one to collect 34 out of a possible 45 point en-route to become champions for the first time in 11 years.

In contrast, Bosso’s challenge collapsed as they won just seven of their 15 second round matches, losing six and drawing two to harvest 23 out of a possible 45 points and finish the race in third place — seven points adrift of Makepekepe.

Tsipa was the fall guy of the two giants’ first meeting in Bulawayo when he was sent off for head-butting Muduhwa who had been given the task of tracking every move by the veteran forward with the Bosso defender stalking him everywhere he went.

Amid a wave of frustrations, Tsipa snapped and head-butted Muduhwa in an off-the-ball incident leaving referee Thabani Bamala with little option but to send him off.

Tsipa then issued an apology, on his return to the capital, even though he suggested Muduhwa had provoked him throughout the match by insulting his parents, including his mother who wasn’t feeling well.

“From the first whistle, he (Muduhwa) knee-tackled me intentionally such that I finished the first half of the match in pain,’’ claimed Tsipa.

“During the game he was abusive to me uttering unprintable words about my parents which I cannot repeat. And for someone coming into this match with a lot going on in my life where things are not okay at home where my mother is bed-ridden and seriously ill, it affected me and provoked some temper inside me.

“I just travelled to Bulawayo for the love of the game, but my mother is very sick. I am not trying to justify myself, but I had told the referee several times during the match and even tried to communicate with the linesman to no avail about my opponent’s behaviour.

“Off the ball, he was just kicking me and all. Maybe, it was a strategy to get me sent-off I don’t know. I failed to control my temper and realised immediately that what I had done was wrong and I would like to assure everyone that it will never happen again.

“Even when I went to the dressing room I could see that my actions had put my teammates under a lot of pressure as there were now expected to work under pressure.

“The team ended up losing and after the match I said sorry to the team and the coaches. I would want to say sorry to the (CAPS United) supporters as well and everyone at the club. Since the match was live on television with everyone following it, they would have been disappointed with my actions.’’

Muduhwa rejected Tsipa’s claims and labelled him a liar.

“That man was fighting from the start and I also had to be aggressive. He has a short temper and about her mother, it is a big a lie,” Muduhwa told our sister newspaper, The Sunday Mail.

“He hit me with an elbow and mocked me by constantly reminding me that I was still a novice in this game, I was also psychologically affected going into that match, my aunt passed away before that game but I tried to play it fair.

“I respect Tsipa because he played for big teams when I was still young and he is a good player. He remains a football brother to me and I wish his mother a speedy recovery.’’

Fourteen months later, in the Battle of Zimbabwe, Muduhwa’s name featured prominently in the script of the big match when he was head-butted by Dynamos forward, Ntouba, three minutes before the end of regulation time, leading to the Cameroonian striker’s expulsion.

The Bosso defender was tasked with shadowing Ntouba, in a technical masterclass by Dutch coach Erol Akbay, and Muduhwa stuck to his man, at times using unorthodox means to frustrate the Cameroonian who had destroyed a lot of defenders before this contest. Referee Arnold Ncube, who had a stinker of a game with his limitations to handle a match of such magnitude being brutally exposed every minute, made the right call to expel Ntouba for head-butting Muduhwa.

But Dynamos have every right to question why Ncube appeared to turn a blind eye, most of the time, to the rough treatment Ntouba received on the day, which could have eventually contributed to the Cameroonian snapping and exploding in the wrong way by taking matters into his hands.

Bosso, too, have every right to feel the referee gave them a raw deal, in the first half, when he ignored their strong appeals for them to be handed a penalty when forward Godfrey Makaruse came down in the box — the second time in as many big matches the Glamour Boys have somehow escaped after the John Zhuwawu incident in the Harare Derby last week.

Television replays also appeared to suggest Ntouba had strayed marginally off-side, even though it would have been a very difficult call for the assistant referee to pick, as the ball left Ocean Mushure’s boot and floated into the area for the Cameroonian to score.

DeMbare were also crying foul, at the end, wondering how Benson Phiri — who scored a beauty for the Bosso equaliser, spinning on a six-pence and stoking the ball home — was still on the pitch after he slapped Ntouba right in front of the Glamour Boys technical area.

Ntouba will miss the Harare Derby at Rufaro on Sunday, which could be a massive blow for a DeMbare side which needed the Cameroonian forward’s magic to win the last contest at the National Sports Stadium last week.

The Bosso fans, who saw their team play with the kind of spirit that had been lacking in their last few matches, Muduhwa — once again — was their hero of the big occasion.

“Has the Cameroonian escaped from Muduhwa’s back pocket?’’ Bosso supporter, Mbongeni Dube, asked on Twitter. “Tsipa was in the same situation with Muduhwa last season.’’ The Herald