Last October, I watched one of the most bizarre games of my life. It was a World Cup qualifier between South Africa and Senegal.
The game, played in Durban, was meant to be routine. One of 10 World Cup qualifiers in Africa that weekend.
But the result was a strange one. 2-1 to South Africa. But with one of the strangest decisions a referee could possibly give in a match.
As a player, imagine being hacked from behind and in the process of falling, your boot catches your opponent and a free kick was given against your team! What would you feel like doing? The less said about it, the better. But you will feel robbed.
And the Senegalese would have felt rightly robbed by the officiating of Ghanaian referee Lamptey on the day.
But as many have had to do over the years, we learn to accept results. Frank Lampard scored a perfectly good goal in the World Cup against Germany with the scores at 1-2 in South Africa. Goal was disallowed and rather than go to 2-2, the game went on to end 4-1 to the Germans and England went home. As they say, it happens. And we have learnt to move on.
Fast forward 11 months and FIFA decide to revisit the issue. Having found unprecedented irregularities in the refereeing of Mr Lamptey, they banned him for life from football. Great decision, which made Lamptey a confirmed disgrace to Africa and to the nobility of the refereeing profession.
But to order a replay of the game! Wasn’t that a step too far? Time is starting to tell.
Because, last week, I saw another very bizarre decision given in yet another World Cup qualifier, this time involving South African referee Daniel Bennett, in the game between Uganda and Ghana. How could anyone not see that the goal scored by the Ghanaian was a perfectly good goal? Bennett got it wrong. His assistant was either half asleep or playing another game in his head, to have missed the fact that it was a perfectly good and legitimate goal.
But yet again, it’s done. Ghana did not win the game. Egypt went on to win theirs and the facts are that Egypt is in the World Cup and Ghana is left to rue the chances they missed even before the Uganda game.
But what has happened is that Ghana has lodged a protest against the officiating of Daniel Bennett and his friends in Kampala. And what they want is not just a reprimand or punishment of the match officials. They want FIFA to declare a rematch, using the South Africa v Senegal decision as precedent.
This is the fallout of what I think of as the questionable decision of FIFA to ask that matches that officials erred in be replayed. Because now, everyone will come forward when they feel aggrieved, and demand that their matches be replayed.
It makes our game laughed at, and I hope our friends in FIFA will do something to arrest this situation, else they will have to expand the size of their Protests and Appeals department, because requests for replays will start coming from all quarters.
While we are at it, may I also ask that the Champions League semi final between Chelsea and Barcelona on April 2009 (1-1 - Iniesta 93rd minute goal that sunk Chelsea fans’ hearts) also be replayed on the grounds of the referee missing a few fouls that could have resulted in penalties and that might have given Chelsea the final berth?
Such is the comedy of the decision to have matches replayed based on refereeing decisions or indiscretions.