CAPE TOWN – Here’s South African football in a nutshell: a vibrant, pulsating encounter between Cape Town City and Mamelodi Sundowns at a jam-packed Athlone Stadium, in a superb, electric atmosphere, and what happens? The referee hogs the spotlight.
It’s so typical of the sport of football in this neck of the woods. The day after we should be focusing on the game, the players, the tactics and more, instead we are talking about the performance of the referee.
And it has to be said, when it comes to Victor Gomes, the official in charge of Friday night’s fixture, it has become an all-too familiar scenario.
Both City and Sundowns were unanimous in their criticism of Gomes in Masandawana’s 1-0 victory.
Truth be told, this referee is often far more concerned with petty issues and then gets the big decisions wrong.
He sent off Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane for questioning his awarding of a foul, City goalkeeper coach Brian van der Heever for comments made from the bench and City captain Robyn Johannes for something only the official will know about.
But at the same time, Gomes missed the most critical decision on the night in failing to send off Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango for a brutal lunge on Thabo Nodada.
Nodada was clean-through on goal minutes before halftime when Onyango came charging out and threw a high, dangerous boot at the midfielder.
It was the type of challenge that ends careers.
The City man was unable to continue, and needed more than 20 stitches to repair a massive gash in his leg.
“I’m afraid the referee stole the show tonight,” said City’s assistant coach Vasili Manousakis. “Tonight was the Victor Gomes Show.
“How their goalkeeper was not sent off baffles us all. The keeper absolutely destroyed Thabo Nodada, and then later, the referee’s gone to send off Robyn Johannes for something soft and bizarre.”
Mamelodi Sundowns assistant coach Manqoba Mngqithi was just as disappointed in Gomes.
“I was close by when he sent off our coach (Mosimane),” said Mngqithi.
“I have no reason to lie, but the coach went to make a logical complaint to the referee about why he had awarded a foul to the opponents. There were no insulting words.
“I would be happy if afterwards referees can come up to the mike and say I’m sorry.
“It’s something that doesn’t happen in our football; in my opinion, it’s something that can help our game.”
On the field, though, it was again City’s profligacy in front of goal that led to their downfall.
“It was such a one-sided game,” said Manousakis. “I thought we played unbelievably today. I can’t believe we lost this game; it was one-way traffic in the first half.
“We absolutely murdered Sundowns; they looked very average… and then they needed just one chance to win it.
“But all that counts for nothing if you don’t stick the ball into the net.
“It has been a problem for us over the last few weeks, and we are hoping that Matthew Rusike (new signing) can solve the problem. We are nevertheless proud of the boys.”
As for Mngqithi, he admitted that Sundowns weren’t prepared for City’s approach.
“City surprised us with the intensity of their attacks,” said the Sundowns assistant coach. “They pressed us high and that gave them momentum.
“In the past, they always used counter-attacks, so we never expected them to come at us.
“Initially it destabilised us, but we managed to adjust, change the structure ,and I thought we managed the game well in the second half.”