Referee Matemera reunites with Ivorian club which built its success on his integrity

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Robson Sharuko

HARARE - THREE months after his last romance with Williamsville Athletic Club ended in the farce of a bribery attempt which he rejected in Equatorial Guinea, propelling him to the stardom befitting a hero who refused to be swallowed by the dark forces who are poisoning world football, Zimbabwean referee Norman Matemera was this week handed another dance with the Ivorian club.

The Zimbabwean top referee was in Equatorial Guinea in April this year for a CAF Confederation Cup play-off match between hosts Desportivo Niefang and Ivorian side Williamsville Athletic Club when an attempt was made to try and seduce him with a US$10 000 bribe to ensure he would help the host team to win the first leg of the contest comfortably.

Corruption has been a cancer that has been eating African football, as revealed in the sting operation carried out recently in Ghana, which led to a number of high-profile referees being handed lengthy bans by CAF for their roles in the match-fixing scandals.

Matemera was praised by CAF for standing firm, in the face of the temptation tossed up in his face by the Equatorial Guinea side, who were working in cahoots with the match commissioner, and refusing the US$10 000 bribe to influence the outcome of the match.

“We would like to take this opportunity to appreciate your excellent attitude and honesty shown during the incident that took place on the occasion of the match Desportivo (Equatorial Guinea) and Williamsville Athletic Club (Cote d’Ivoire),’’ the CAF Deputy Secretary General For football and development, Anthony Baffoe, advised Matemera in a letter.

“You have all those affluences which accolades in a good and honest referee. We praise your positive attitude and your ethical abilities to ensure a fair play during your games. With determination and urge to always go an extra mile while refereeing, you have successfully brought a lot of fame to CAF.

“With your significant contribution, we are changing the mind sets to ensure fair play.

“Your devotion towards work is inspiring other referees which mitigates the reluctance in work and strengthen the motivation among your colleagues. We are pleased to have you on our team. You deserve high praise for the way you handled the matter.

“Thank you for giving CAF your best. May you enjoy all the success in your entire endeavours.’’

The Harare policeman was also handed a US$5 000 reward by the Zimbabwe Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu who praised him for raising the flag of the force very high and ensuring that the name of the country was spoken off in positive light.

Mpofu contributed US$3 000 towards that reward while the country police chief, Godwin Matanga, contributed US$1 000 and Home Affairs permanent secretary Melu Matshiya provided the other US$1 000.

Matemera, who had been an assistant inspector in the police force, was promoted to the rank of inspector for upholding the principles of Fair Play in rejecting the bribe and reporting the incident to the CAF authorities.

Now, as fate might have it, CAF this week again sent Matemera to take charge of a CAF Confederation Cup match against Williamsville Athletic Club, the very club that featured in the battle in which the referee rejected the bribe for him to influence the match in favour of their opponents.

Williamsville Athletic Club lost the controversial match in Equatorial Guinea 1-2 but then the Ivorian side won the second leg comfortably to qualify for the group stages of the tournament.

Now, this week in Nigeria, Matemera reunited with the same Ivorian side, whose progress into the group stages of the CAF Confederation Cup he aided, by rejecting the shadowy attempts to influence the play-off game in favour of their Equatorial Guinea opponents.

The Ivorians had a group match against two-time African champions Enyimba in Port Harcourt which the Zimbabwean referee took charge of on Wednesday.

 ‘’I think the significance of this is massive,’’ Zimbabwe’s leading football commentator and analyst, Charles Mabika, told The Southern Times.

‘’Given everything that has happened in West Africa of late, especially in relation to referees being banned by CAF for conduct likely to destroy the integrity of football, it means a lot for CAF to invest all their trust in a man they believe could go onto that minefield, in what is likely to be a stormy contest, and deliver a good performance.

‘’It’s not a good time for refereeing on the continent right now and it’s refreshing that some of the good ones, those who have upheld the integrity of the game, are found in this country and are now being rewarded for standing tall while others have succumbed to the temptation that comes with bribery.

‘’Norman has been a shining example for Zimbabwean football and it’s good that he keeps getting rewarded by CAF for his efforts and it confirms the old saying that a good name is far better than riches, especially the wealth that would have been ill-gotten.’’

FIFA referees instructor, Felix Tangawarima, has also saluted Matemera and South African referee Victor Gomez for their brave decisions to reject attempts to bribe them in West Africa while carrying out CAF inter-club duties in that part of the continent.

"When I am working for FIFA as my full-time job, the first presentation I do to referees is about integrity. I tell them that they will be approached at some stage ... it is almost certain," Tangawarima said.

"But I am proud that a stand has been taken by the referees in my region [Southern Africa] that their integrity is unquestionable. Even after they were approached they went on to officiate to the best of their ability."

 

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