By Robson Sharuko
It will not mask a lifeless performance by a shockingly disjointed Warriors team that staggered in a mist of confusion yesterday — terribly short of both spirit and adventure on the big stage — but it will certainly be a huge talking point.
And, after they had another game-defining effort ruled out in controversial fashion by a Malawian referee in the first leg of their CHAN battle against Namibia in Windhoek last week, the Warriors can be forgiven for wondering if the odds were staked against them in this duel.
Conspiracy theorists, and they are many of them in this game, will probably tell you it’s not a coincidence the referees, who featured in the controversy that marred both legs of the battle, were from Malawi, in Windhoek, and Swaziland, in Harare yesterday.
They will tell you these match officials, just like their countrymen, are still reeling from the hammering the Warriors handed their national teams — the Flames of Malawi and Sihlangu of Swaziland — in the 2017 AFCON qualifiers at the National Sports Stadium last year.
Yesterday, the big talking point came in the penalty shootout, after the spirited Namibians — who deserve a lot of praise for the courageous way they fought and, at times, even outplayed their lethargic hosts — had forced this CHAN battle in the lottery.
With Zimbabwe having converted all their first three penalties through Devon Chafa, Praise Tonha and substitute Milton Ncube — and the Namibians also having successfully converted their first two spot-kicks, controversy erupted when Dynamo Fredricks stepped up to take the visitors’ third spot-kick.
Fredricks embarked on his run-up and then, just before striking the ball, completely stopped as he feigned his shot.
Zimbabwe goalkeeper Herbert Rusawo then committed himself to his right and, with the advantage of knowing where the ‘keeper had chosen to move, the Namibian coolly rolled the ball to the other side.
Rusawo immediately rushed to the referee to lodge his complaint, which was correct, because he had been beaten by someone who had infringed on the regulations related to how penalties should be taken according to the Laws of the Game.
While feinting to try and fool the goalkeeper is not an infringement, according to the Laws of the Game, it becomes an offence when the one taking the penalty completely stops in his stride and then gains an unfair advantage on the ‘keeper.
The player should never come to a completely stop just before hitting the ball.
The rules were revised just before the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa by the International Football Association Board, who have the authority to write the rules and regulations that govern world football, and have been in force since then.
Fredricks would not have committed any offence if he had feigned while in his stride but to completely come to a stop, the way he did just before hitting the ball yesterday, is not allowed.
However, Swazi referee Thulani Sibandze decided there was no offence even after Warriors captain Denis Dauda had run from the centre-line, where the players were standing, to lodge his protest. Warriors assistant coach Lloyd Mutasa also remonstrated with the referee, after the game, as he tried to put across his point that the Swazi match official had erred in allowing the execution of that penalty to stand.
Law 14 is what deals with penalties and how they should be taken and it says very clear that an “infringement’’ occurs and “sanctions” are applied when there is “illegal feigning.’’
“A player who deliberately stops at the end of their run and then feints to gain an advantage is deliberately breaking the Law,’’ the IFAB say in their revised law book.
“This is an act of deliberate unsporting behaviour so, as well as the caution, the player does not deserve to have a second chance to score. This stronger punishment should deter an offence which is sometimes difficult to detect.’’
The English FA also recently advised their members of the changes.
“Among several minor changes to the laws regarding penalties, potentially the most interesting is the amendment to yellow card a penalty taker who ‘illegally feints’ once his run-up is complete.
“This means slowing to a stop immediately before shooting is not allowed.’’
And, an analysis of Fredricks’ stunt clearly shows that he completely stopped, just before he took the penalty, and feinted, gaining an advantage over the ‘keeper, who is not allowed by the laws to move from his line until the ball has been hit.
The Chevrons and the Sables, who have been victims of some questionable decisions in the past few weeks, were part of the crowd at the giant stadium yesterday and watching all this unfold must have left them wondering why all this continues to happen to us only.
Of course, the Warriors should have avoided all this by playing better and winning the game in normal time rather than wait for the lottery, where everything is possible, but on a day when they needed a response from the defeat in Windhoek, itself a controversial one, Sunday Chidzambwa’s men produced a performance to forget. The Herald