Skillful players bring the entertainment which football lovers come to the stadiums to enjoy. When these players waltz past their opponents during the games, fans go wild. When one of their darlings is kicked by opponents during games, the fans get frustrated and shout unprintable at the referees. While in Europe, skillful players get protection from the men in the middle, locally it seems to be a different story. Sunday Standard journalist TSHEPO MOLWANE reports.
The likes of Ntesang ‘Mirror’ Simanyana (Township Rollers), Topo Piet (Nico United), Motsholetsi Sikele (BMC), Pontsho Moloi (Mochudi Centre Chiefs) and Jackie Mothatego (Gaborone United) are some of the players who bring entertainment to our stadiums with their sublime skills.
When they are out with injuries, football lovers miss what they provide on their good days. When Chiefs’ midfield maestro, Dirang Moloi, returned from suspension last weekend, he made a plea to the referees to protect skillful players rather than being victimized.
“All the cards I’ve received so far this season have been unfair. People out there can pay testimony to that. I think it is upon the referees to ensure that they protect us (skillful players) because we get kicked too much during games and it’s frustrating,” said Moloi last week. At the time, he was dismissed by some quarters who felt that he is finding excuses for his suspensions. But his colleagues have come out to support him.
“There is this referee (name withheld) who always makes my life difficult when he is officiating. He tells me that I’m a cry baby and he never protects me even when I’m kicked. It’s really frustrating like Dirang said. Referees must understand that football is our life and if we get serious injuries our future is doomed,” said a player who wanted to remain anonymous.
GU midfielder, Jackie Mothatego, also shared the same sentiments with Moloi saying that they need to be protected from the hardmen of the game. He pointed out that at times when they try to talk to referees, they are threatened with cards. “It is not right for a referee to threaten a player because we’re at the receiving end. At times we’re forced to remain quiet because we’re scared,” said Mothatego.
Former Notwane skipper Fabian Zulu also joined the chorus and called on the referees to behave like human beings. He said it is disappointing to see players kicked throughout the game whilst they are not being protected. Zulu added that what is frustrating is that at times the skillful players end up being booked while the perpetrators go free.
“Our players are not free to talk to the referees like elsewhere. Our referees need to learn how to handle hard and skillful players like in Europe where the likes of (Lionel) Messi and Ronaldo receive special care,” said Zulu.
Head of referees Alucious Sesikwe said that while it is not in the book that skillful players should be protected, it is upon the referees to ensure that players do not get kicked in the field of play.
“Football is meant for enjoyment not for other players to kick others. I don’t want to believe that referees can turn a blind eye when other players are being kicked. Sometimes it depends on how players talk to referees because I don’t think when you talk in an acceptable manner you can be victimized,” he said.
Sesikwe added that they always try to advise referees where they feel they did not handle situations right.