By Bakang Mhaladi
Gaborone - Botswana referee, Joshua Bondo, who was the subject of abuse by Zambian fans last year, returns to the centre to handle Chipolopolo’s crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Mozambique on Sunday.
Bondo, who has had a string of controversial moments in the last two years, was in charge of Zambia’s World Cup qualifier against Nigeria last year October. Zambia’s had a goal disallowed, which incensed Chipolopolo fans who took to social media to express their anger. Nigeria, instead, qualified for the 2018 World Cup, which was played in Russia in June and July.
Zambians called Bondo an ‘evil man’, who had denied their nation a place at the global sporting showpiece.
The CAF Referees Committee has assigned Bondo another game involving Zambia, as the ‘Copper Bullets’ prepare to take on Mozambique in Maputo on Sunday.
But Bondo might not face the irate fans, as the game would be played away from what would have been a hostile crowd as Zambians have clearly not forgotten the 2017 incident, which denied their team a place at the World Cup.
The media in Zambia, this week decried the move to appoint Bondo to handle their national team’s matches. Some outlets called him ‘The Diramba’, who denied Zambia a World Cup berth, a sign that the anger over last October’s incident had not subsided.
Bondo is not new to controversy after he was sent home from last year’s COSAFA Cup, following Zimbabwe’s complaint. The middleman had apparently denied The Warriors two ‘blatant’ penalties against Madagascar. Last year, he was also involved in another talking point, when he appeared to headbutt an Angolan player during a friendly tie against South Africa.
Recently, Senegal complained about the manner in which Bondo handled their AFCON qualifier against Madagascar, which ended 2-2.
However, Bondo has remained one of the top-rated officials, making his AFCON bow at this year’s edition, which was held in Gabon.
Meanwhile, there is a full programme of AFCON qualifiers, starting on Friday up to Sunday, as nations look to book their berths for next year’s tournament, which Cameroon hosts.
Already five nations, Egypt, Senegal, Madagascar, Tunisia and the hosts, Cameroon have qualified, with the island nation set for their debut appearance.
But the kaleidoscopic pieces of who accompanies the five should be much clearer after week five of the qualifiers, with the final round scheduled for March next year.
For the first time, a record 24 countries will make their way to the 2019 AFCON finals, an increase from 16.