RB’s voice of reason


SO, Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) has prioritised the implementation of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for the topflight next season. If this is done, it will be a first by the country on the continent. As we all know, the costs associated with the implementation of VAR are not low. It is the reason why South Africa’s Premier Soccer League (PSL), which is one of the best sponsored leagues on the continent, is still mulling over the idea of introducing it. Personally, I am against the use of VAR, solely for sporting reasons. Nay, for football reasons. I certainly do not regard football to be the same as tennis or cricket – which are stop-start activities involving so many line decisions per contest. Football, atleast theoretically, can go on for a number of minutes uninterrupted if it does not go out of play or the referee does not blow his whistle. So, while I believe it is important to make the right call as a wrong decision can alter the entire outcome of the game, I do get irritated by the amount of time it takes to review an offside decision with officials checking on whether the armpit was cheating. One of the delights of watching the game live is the spontaneity of celebrating the goal. All you have to do is check with the assistant referee (whom I still prefer to call linesman) on whether the flag is up for offside or not. Of course for those watching on television, if there was any anomaly with the decision of the referee, they will be shown in their living room or pub, which is the favourite place for most soccer fans to watch the game from.
Whatever the case, I don’t think VAR is a priority for our game, I mean our local game. I know that coaches, particularly last season, accused certain referees of showing bias towards certain teams. FAZ did not seem eager to look into those cases. Instead, they went after the complainants whom they warned of disciplinary action. The threat of disciplinary action is a weapon FAZ has used so effectively in the past such that most club officials are reluctant to air their views on certain matters. Former President Rupiah Banda seems to have an idea on what has been happening. This, he made clear, during an appearance on Studio Ken. He said football stakeholders are unable to air their views regarding the state of the local game because they fear being labelled as being against the current executive. The issues RB raised are not new, yet, they have been rubbished in the past simply because they have been raised by someone perceived to be an opponent. But there was something poignant about RB’s message. “We are all Zambians and want what is best [for the national team],” he said as he questioned why former national team footballers and experienced administrators are not being consulted over the declining fortunes of the Chipolopolo. However, it seems RB’s point was missed. It seems the issues raised were not important. In their response, FAZ concentrated more on who said them and not what was said. “I will, in due course, out of respect to the former president, seek audience with him to exchange views on the matters he touched on. I wish to reiterate that I have only full admiration for him as a father figure, former President of the Republic, and former vice-chairman of FAZ, chairman of Zambian Soccer Fans in the seventies and he has personally on occasion been a source of advice and wise counsel,” a statement released by Football House read.
There is no need to seek audience with RB. There was no ambiguity in his statement. The advice is for Football House to consult with other stakeholders. For comments, or

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