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THE Zifa Referees Committee have suspended match official Bongani Gadzikwa, the man at the centre of the controversy that erupted at Rufaro on Sunday, with his decision to rule out Edmore Muzanenhamo's late equaliser sparking a huge outcry from Highlanders.

Gadzikwa, who was the first assistant referee, raised his flag indicating that Muzanenhamo had strayed into an offside position, in the decisive moment of a titanic clash that produced five goals, before the Bosso man hammered home a beauty for what would have been an equaliser.

Referee Norman Matemera, who had signalled a goal, was forced to change his decision after consultations with his assistant and Highlanders, who played with a lot of spirit in the second half of an epic duel, left Harare feeling deflated that they had been robbed of, at least, a point.

The Bulawayo giants turned on one of their best performances, in that second half, quickly finding the equaliser, having gone to the break trailing their rivals Dynamos 1-2, with Knox Mtizwa, impressive all afternoon, heading home his second goal of the afternoon.

But after a gritty DeMbare retook the lead, late in the game, Bosso appeared to have grabbed another equaliser, to make it 3-3, with Muzanenhamo's beautiful strike when he connected, first time, after finding himself with acres of space in the box.

However, Bosso's joy was short-lived as Gadzikwa had his flag up and television replays showed that Muzanenhamo was miles on side when he ran on to hammer the ball.

"There is no offside, it does look like injustice," Steve Vickers, the commentator of the game that was live on SuperSport, said after watching the replays.

"That (goal) should have stood, fair and square. He is not offside. Highlanders have been robbed. An epic contest will have a cruel chapter because that was not offside.

"A genuine equaliser disallowed. It had been a gripping contest bit with a touch of injustice."

Highlanders coach Bongani Mafu blasted the match officials.

"It's sad really. We can't have results cooked like what happened today. National champions must be on merit not this nonsense," he thundered.

"Our football will not go anywhere with this kind of officiating."

Yesterday, the ZIFA Referees Committee reacted by suspending Gadzikwa.

"He has been suspended, pending some investigations," Wilfred Mukuna, the ZIFA Referees Committee vice chairman said.

Mukuna said he could not shed more light now because the matter has to be dealt with in a professional manner.

However, the same ZIFA Referees Committee is now under fire for quickly suspending Gadzikwa and doing nothing when Dynamos were denied maximum points when the assistant referee erred in disallowing what looked like a legitimate goal by Patrick Khumbula in the league match against Tsholotsho at Rufaro in May.

The match ended goalless and DeMbare left the stadium unhappy that they had been robbed of two points by a poor decision by the match officials.

Mukuna and his team, too, did not act when there was controversy during the league match between CAPS United and Highlanders at Barbourfields two years ago.

Referee Philani Ncube awarded the Green Machine a penalty, but after consulting with assistant referee Brighton Nyika, changed his decision and ruled that Rahman Kutsanzira, then playing for Makepekepe, had strayed into an offside position.

The decision sparked outrage among the Green Machine players.

"I think the referee made some very poor decisions which denied us a positive result in the end," CAPS United talisman, Hardlife Zvirekwi, said.

"The lasting moment was when he denied us a penalty. We should have been awarded that penalty because the referee was right on the spot. If the assistant referee then thought that our player was offside, why did he come to take his position in readiness for the penalty (to be taken)?

"He should have remained on the offside position. The referee succumbed to pressure from Highlanders players and fans and denied us the penalty. We wanted to get maximum points from Bulawayo, but some of the decisions affected us and even on the red card on (Arnold) Chivheya was not correct."

Ian Zvoma, the ZTV sports news anchor, felt that Matemera, as the referee, should have overruled his assistant.

"An assistant ref works with the man in charge and in the end the man in charge, in this case Norman Matemera, made the final decision that's why we have cases of a referee overruling his assistant and in any case the name ASSISTANT says it all," said Zvoma.

"Matemera features prominently in the whole issue."

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