From Sikhumbuzo Moyo in Owando, Congo Brazzaville
AS Otoho …………….1
William Stima scored a 48th minute stunner that secured a draw for FC Platinum against AS Otoho in a Total Caf Champions League first round first leg encounter at Stade Marien Ngouab here yesterday.
The game was, however, marred by Togolese referee Kokou Ntale whose shambolic and embarrassing show got even neutrals on the terraces shaking their heads in disbelief. The referee clearly chose to defile the refereeing profession by his favouritism, unperturbed that CAF had sent in a referees’ assessor from Burkina Faso, probably after having got wind of possible behind-the-scenes actions against FC Platinum.
“Everyone saw what was happening here and it’s sad. We are not going anywhere as Africa with such kind of officiating,” said FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza in a post-match interview.
Ntale awarded an incredible 16 free kicks to the hosts inside 20 minutes and only stopped when the hosts finally scored exactly in the 20th minute through Matheus Botamba. A normal referee would, however, have ruled out the goal as the striker was offside when he attempted his first shot at goal which was punched out by a diving Petros Mhari. Botamba later pushed Mhari off the ball to eventually scramble the ball home.
To their credit FC Platinum, even though clearly hard done by, kept their cool and stuck to the game plan of trying to catch the hosts against the run of play. Five minutes before half-time Gift Mbweti was harshly hacked down inside the box as he attempted to go for the kill but the referee waved play on.
The Zimbabwean champions kept on probing forward while keeping their tactical shape and in the 43rd minute Farai Madhananga made a scissors kick attempt at goal but the ball flew over the bar. A minute later it was to be Kevin Madzongwe, who saw his effort from outside the box go wide.
FC Platinum came back from the breather hungrier to find the equaliser but so did the referee in his attempt to make sure the Zimbabweans don’t achieve their goal. It was not to be for Ntale as four minutes into the second stanza, Rodwell Chinyengetere was fouled just outside the box and up stepped Stima to hit a ferocious grass-cutter that gave goalkeeper Chansel Massa no chance.
“We wanted this goal and we got it. I’m happy we managed to get a draw and I hope when they come to Zimbabwe we will finish them off. We just have to push and remain focused,” said Mapeza.
The return leg is at Mandava Stadium on Saturday. The winner will qualify for the lucrative group stage of the tournament.