IF there is anyone who should be feeling embarrassed by the shocking decision this week to rescind Dynamos striker Christian Epoupa Ntouba’s red card, it is the club and the fans. It cannot be Zifa president Phillip Chiyangwa whose hasty, unlawful and scandalous intervention has shocked all rational and fair-minded football supporters, professionals and analysts. For Chiyangwa thinks his ridiculous intervention demonstrates courage, not crass bias and unprofessionalism.
Sports Panorama with Enock Muchinjo
However, we must remember that sport, after all, is about institutional pride and gaining respect.
Sure, winning and competing forms a huge part of sport today — the money factor being the chief driving force.
But above all, it is important to bear in mind that success which is not achieved through ethical fairness, morals and sportsmanship does not deserve anyone’s respect and admiration.
There is no honour in being a beneficiary of crude bias and winning outside the area of fair play. It was to be expected that the Zimbabwean football community this week spoke out in unison against the decision by Zifa to repeal Ntouba’s red card, issued by referee Arnold Ncube during Dynamos’ clash with Highlanders on Sunday, after the Cameroonian hitman reacted in anger and head-butted opponent Peter Muduwa.
Amplifying the controversy is the fact that Chiyangwa, who is also chairman of the referees’ committee that passed the outrageous ruling, has a vested interest in this.
Not surprisingly, and quite rightly so, Chiyangwa has been particularly singled out for razor-sharp criticism, if not downright ridicule.
Chiyangwa must take it on the chin. He has made a disastrous blunder with serious and far-reaching implications on his reputation. Chiyangwa is not helping matters by continuing to be noisy about it and pouring fuel to an already raging fire.
What about Dynamos? How should they react to this rather bizarre gift?
Well, it is a rather tricky situation they find themselves in.
Dynamos are involved in a tightly-contested title race and any club in their situation want to have its best players at this crucial stage of the season.
Too often, us reporters and the people we write about loosely use the phrase “winning at all costs” to illustrate how badly a win is needed.
It is a cliché of sports journalism.
Seldom have we been forced to apply this term in its literal sense, as in this case.
At what cost does Dynamos want to win the title? Definitely not at this particularly cost, not at the prize of their integrity, reputation and heritage.
For all we know, Dynamos does not need such blatant and shameful bias to win the league. They have come a long way this season and are capable of doing the job on their own. It is high time Dynamos started declining unsolicited little handouts that appear to do them a favour, yet only succeed in tarnishing their image. Dynamos should not field Epoupa for the next two matches to disentangle itself from this disgraceful affair. It’s the easy way out.
Who can forget the controversy of 1995 when closet rivals Blackpool were ordered to play their last decisive game of the season 24 hours before Dynamos, eventual winners on goal difference.
In doing so, Dynamos played their final fixture knowing the exact amount of goals they needed to edge out Blackpool for the title. There have been such incidents involving Dynamos. It’s not good for the club and sport.
Dynamos must bite the bullet and let Chiyangwa deal with the consequences of his actions alone. The Premier Soccer League (PSL) too. The league has issued a sober and calming statement in the aftermath of the storm, announcing that Ntouba remains suspended. Thank goodness. Hopefully this is the final word.
As for Chiyangwa, he must act like what men of integrity do — have the courage to admit and correct mistakes. What he did is not in his own interest, that of Dynamos and indeed football.
We must all appreciate that in sport there is something called fair play. It is an attitude; a way of thinking. It’s a philosophy that becomes reality through the creation of an ethical sport system grounded in the principles of integrity, fairness and respect.
Through sport, athletes, clubs and fans learn to respect their competitors and fair value competition. That way the spirit of competition, success and fun becomes civil and professional.
In other words, fairness means sticking to the agreed rules, not using unfair advantages; it means equal opportunities, professional behaviour, respect for the opponent and tolerance.
If athletes are aggrieved by the unprofessional behaviour of competitors they appeal to the referee; they don’t retaliate because doing so is even more unethical and hence punishable.
That explains Epoupa’s red card even if he was being harassed.
If the referee doesn’t do his job properly, there are rules and channels of redress. It can’t be dealt with through mobocracy.
Chiyangwa must act professionally and allow the rules of the game to be applied fairly. He should not act in a partisan and emotional way as he did. It’s damaging to his reputation and the integrity of football.
When things like that happen, fairness as basic sporting and moral principle comes under threat. Everyone involved in sport — from administrators, clubs, coaches, officials, referees, players to spectators — can and should play a part in promoting fair play.