Cape Town - It's official: The Absa Premiership is in the midst of a refereeing crisis after yet another dubious decision as Orlando Pirates clinched a 1-0 win over Highlands Park at the Makhulong Stadium on Tuesday.
Tshegofatso Mabasa proved to be the match-winner for the Buccaneers in the 80th minute when he collected a through-pass from Linda Mntambo before bursting into the box and firing a left-footed effort past the onrushing Thela Ngobeni into the bottom-right corner.
However, replays showed Mabasa to be at least three metres offside when the ball was played into him! It was a call the linesman and referee Abongile Tom somehow missed.
A furious Highlands Park mentor Owen Da Gama said after the match that South African football would continue to suffer if such decisions continued to blight matches and rob teams of points.
"From what I saw the guy (Mabasa) was three metres offside," Da Gama told SuperSport TV.
"The very same linesman on the far end, an Orlando Pirates player heads the ball, but he gives an offside decision against us.
"If this is going to continue in our country our football is not going to go far. Somebody must go to jail for that. That is wrong!"
Da Gama fumed that eventual goalscorer Mabasa should not have been on the field in the first place after a dangerous challenge on Lindokuhle Mbatha.
"A two-footed tackle like that, that is murderous. You can end somebody's career like that. At the end of the day you work so hard all week, you prepare, analyse, just for a mistake like that to happen.
"That is shameful!"
Da Gama perfectly summed up how teams on the receiving end of these "shameful" decisions feel when robbed of points after preparing tirelessly during the week.
The ironic part?
The match official for Tuesday's clash was the reigning Absa Premiership Referee of the Season, Abongile Tom.
Tom was involved in more controversy two weeks ago when awarding a penalty to Kaizer Chiefs against Cape Town City in the Telkom Cup last 16.
That incident resulted in Tom brandishing a yellow card after being man-handled by CT City midfielder Mpho Makola in reaction to the awarding of the penalty.
"The referee was terrible‚ he might as well have just put on a Kaizer Chiefs shirt‚," CT City coach Benni McCarthy said regarding Tom's performance.
This is just the most recent in a series of appalling decisions made by match officials - in only matchday nine of the 2019/20 season.
Earlier in the season, assistant referee Mervyn van Wyk was suspended after denying AmaZulu a legitimate goal in a 2-0 loss to Kaizer Chiefs.
This past weekend Kaizer Chiefs were again on the right side of a contentious decision in Samir Nurkovic's opener against Mamelodi Sundowns with the Brazilian's head coach Pitso Mosimane claiming the goal as "clearly" offside.
"Something has to give in," Mosimane said.
"You can't win every game by referees' mistakes. It must stop. It's enough. We have seen it before but now it's a series. It's a series."
The SAFA Referees Review Committee later ruled in favour of referee Victor Hlungwani saying Chiefs had scored a legitimate goal.
"Sundowns' Mosa Lebusa and Chiefs' Leonardo Castro jumped to head the ball, but both missed it," explained the Review Committee as quoted by the official SAFA website.
However, slow-motion replays showed the ball brushed the head of Sundowns defender Lebusa before indeed touching the shoulder of Castro - making Nurkovic offside.
The giveaway is when Castro looks back at the linesman to check whether he had raised his flag - a tell-tale sign when a player knows he touched the ball.
The refereeing system in South Africa needs a serious review to help eliminate these glaringly bad decisions for the sake of the integrity of our local game.
This is even more obvious when an official review committee still fails to come to the correct conclusion with the help of technology.