Refs in no show

HARARE - The African Nations Championship (Chan) last round first leg qualifier between Zimbabwe and Zambia failed to take place yesterday after match officials from Cameroon failed to pitch up.

Cameroonian referees — Juenkon Wandji, Noupue Nguegoue, Lambi Fuanta and Nde Christopher Ade — were reportedly stranded in transit at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport came to a standstill last Wednesday after a fire broke out, destroying large parts of the international terminal and leaving the arrivals section in charred ruins.

The match has since been rescheduled to next Sunday at Rufaro Stadium after efforts to move the match to today failed to yield results.

Zambia, who are due to play a friendly against Senegal on Wednesday in France, declined to play the match today.

There was drama yesterday after disgruntled fans who had paid to watch the match invaded the pitch, demanding refunds.   

It took the intervention of one police officer, who then addressed the crowd advising people to go to the entry points and get tickets to use for the rescheduled match next weekend.

By the time this reporter left the stadium, there was still commotion as the cashiers had left the entry points.

In a statement issued yesterday, Zifa said the referees missed a connecting flight on Friday before their rescheduled flight the following day was suspended.

Zifa communications officer Xolani Gwesela said: “On Monday we wrote to Caf protesting the against decision to use referees from Cameroon. We asked Caf to use match officials from southern Africa.

“Unfortunately, Caf turned down our request so we had to stick to those referees from Cameroon.

“Cosafa gave us the green light to use referees from South Africa and the South African Football Federation (Safa) recommended us names of referees that we could have used.

“We had a pre-match meeting where we were told by the match commissioner from South Africa, Ian Mcleod, that Caf had made it clear that we had to stick to the rules of Caf.

“So we had agreed that the match should be rescheduled to 16:30 today (yesterday) in anticipation that these referees would arrived then. But again these referees communicated with us today (yesterday) that their flight had been cancelled. There was then a meeting between Zifa, Faz and the match commissioner where it was agreed that the match be postponed to Sunday next week.”

How Zifa failed to re-route the Cameroonian referees on another flight remains a mystery.

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