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Pressure mounting on referees

Referees were yet again on the spotlight at the weekend with George Mwai bearing the brunt of the latest series of criticism levelled against the match officials.

Mwai, who was the center referee during Saturday’s highly charged Kenyan Premier League duel between defending champions and table-toppers Gor Mahia and Ulinzi Stars, was reproached by fans of both teams who accused him of poor officiating.

Ulinzi coach Robert Matano was harshest in his criticism of the Nyeri-based match official whom he called “bogus” for allegedly denying his team clear penalties.

Television footage confirmed that indeed the referee was guilty of awarding fouls to the wrong team, ignoring at least one penalty call in favour of the soldiers and even halting the match to allow for substitutions.

“I can say it 100 times that this referee is not qualified enough to officiate a Division One match. He denied us a clear penalty and kept ignoring our calls. Its so unfortunate and I don’t know for how long we shall have to stomach such poor levels of officiating,” a furious Matano said after the match.

But Mwai wasn’t the only match official who came under fire this weekend. Bandari coach Twahir Muhidin likewise expressed dismay at the manner in which James Kagera officiated his team’s match against Western Stima away in Kisumu. Stima won the match 1-0.

CHEAP PENALTY

“I hardly complain about match officials but during our match last weekend the referee was clearly biased. He gave a very cheap penalty to our opponents. There is a serious need for  some of these officials to improve on decision-making,” Muhidin said.

A fortnight ago, center referee Raphael Nduati and his two assistants were accused of incompetence and were pelted with water bottles during the course of Gor Mahia’s match against Sofapaka at City Stadium.

Gor coach Frank Nuttall and his counterpart from AFC Leopards Zdravko Logarusic have also expressed displeasure with the match officials during the current season.

In light of these incidents, the Daily Nation Sport recently revealed that none of the 16 center referees, 24 assistant referees and 16 match commissioners drafted to officiate this year’s KPL matches are accredited by FIFA.

The revelation  prompted Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Chairman Sam Nyamweya to call for a round table discussion with the KPL Limited chairman Ambrose Rachier to discuss modalities of reactivating the Referees Appointment Board.

However, the Daily Nation Sport has since established that the meeting, which was scheduled for last Tuesday, didn’t take place and the disbanded appointment committee is yet to be reconstituted.

The referees’ fiasco notwithstanding, Gor became the first team to cross the 20-point mark in the KPL log, but the weekend’s glory belonged to AFC Leopards who returned to winning ways with a  5-1 mauling of Sony Sugar.