WARRIORS captain Ovidy Karuru says they will forget about the bad officiating that marred their first two Group B matches of the Cosafa Castle Cup football tournament here and focus on tonight’s do-or-die clash against a beatable Seychelles.
The match, which kicks off at 5pm, will be played at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg.
Zimbabwe have been at the wrong end of some very dubious officiating here, when they were denied two genuine goals for off sides in their 4-0 win over Mozambique on Monday.
On Wednesday against Madagascar, the Warriors had two legitimate penalty appeals — after Raphael Manuvire and then Karuru were chopped down inside the box — waved away by Botswana referee Joshua Bongo, leaving the players and officials with a sour taste in their mouths.
Zifa yesterday submitted a formal complaint on the conduct of the match officials in the two matches.
Had Zimbabwe beaten Madagascar, they could have qualified for the quarter-finals of the tournament for the first time in three years.
Karuru intimated that there could be a conspiracy by match officials against his team, but said the group would not be distracted by that in their pursuit of a ticket to the next stage, where Swaziland lie in wait.
“Those were penalties and even the goalkeeper after the incident against me, actually apologised and in front of the referee. Why would he apologise if he had not fouled me? And if I had dived, I was supposed to be cautioned for that. Raphael and I were not shown yellow cards because the ref knew fouls had been committed,” he said.
“The match officiating was bad, everyone saw it. Maybe they don’t want us to progress to the next stage because every 50-50 challenge was going against Zimbabwe. There was a time I went to him [referee] just before the start of the second half and he told me that he knew we were playing for a draw.
“I asked him where he was getting all that. I told him we were playing to try and win the match as we always do.
That match was very important to us because had we won it, we could have qualified to the next stage. It was also important to us because it was our 50th game at the Cosafa tournament, so we wanted to celebrate the milestone with a victory.”
Karuru added: “We have discussed that as a team and we have told ourselves that we won’t be distracted. We will remain focused on our objective of trying to win this competition.
We want to go all the way because the more we do well, the more we market ourselves. Most of the players in the squad play in Zimbabwe so this is a good chance. We want to use this as a stepping stone to better opportunities abroad.”
Karuru also gave a review of their match against Madagascar, where the Warriors started slowly, allowing the opposition to dominate possession, but improved in the second half.
“I think it’s because of fatigue, but we picked up in the second half and threatened them. We created chances which I think we should have taken,” he said.
“We are not getting enough rest because we play matches every 24 hours and we have a squad of just 20 players and I can imagine if we qualify to the next round, I’m sure it would be worse in terms of fatigue. But that is how it is, we just have to keep on pushing and try to do our best under the circumstances.”
Seychelles are the weakling of the group, having lost to Madagascar 2-0 on Monday and beaten 2-1 by Mozambique on Wednesday, but Karuru was cautious.
Just a win for Zimbabwe today, who have a goal difference of +4, could be enough to get them through, unless Madagascar (+2) beat Mozambique by at least over five goals.
“Our chances are very high if we do what the coaches are asking us to do. We have to go out there and get a result.
This match is not about dominating or playing good football. We just have to score goals, even if it means playing ugly, as long as we get a result,” he said.