Munetsi calls for VAR after Lesotho disappointment

Controversial Eswatini referee Thulani Sibandze, who was previously banned by CAF, denied the Warriors what looked like two genuine penalties.

Warriors captain Marshal Munetsi has called on officials to expedite the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology in African football after the team's defeat to Lesotho in a 2026 World Cup Group C qualifier in Soweto, South Africa on Friday.

Controversial Eswatini referee Thulani Sibandze, who was previously banned by CAF, denied the Warriors what looked like two genuine penalties.

A Lesotho defender handled the ball inside the box when the scores were still at 1-0, but the referee waved play on.

The referee also inexplicably looked away when second half substitute Tymon Machope was brought down by the Lesotho goalkeeper after he had muscled his way into the box.

Munetsi said CAF should consider fast tracking the use of after those referees’ glaring officiating calls in Soweto.

"That is why we need VAR, especially in African football because if you want to talk to the referee its a difficult thing. If you try to ask him why he didn't give the decision, he doesn't explain it to you. The next thing he gives you a yellow card, so for the players it's difficult because we always cry about these situations, but it's also unfortunate it wasn't on our side (today). So obviously we just have to try and do much better. The situations like that happen in football, we can't change that. Sometimes the referees also have to come in where you guys (media) can be able to ask them about those situations," Munetsi said.

Munetsi also felt that Lesotho's first goal should not have stood.

Warriors goalkeeper Benard Donovan appeared to be blocked from getting to the ball from a corner kick, although the Chicken Inn stopper should have done better.

"There was a block on the goalkeeper, and normally, the goalkeeper has to be protected because they are no longer allowed to use their knees like before when they could protect themselves. So it's up to the referee to protect him (Donovan), and that is why we were protesting. It's a goal that the referee allowed, but we thought that there was a foul on the goalkeeper."

The defeat left Zimbabwe bottom of Group C with two points from three matches while Lesotho shot to the top of the standing following the surprise win.

The Crocodiles play Benin next, have five points.

"It (defeat) is tough to take because obviously (looking at the two teams) on paper we should have believed we can. They scored and we didn't manage to score. But it's a marathon, so we now have to focus on the game on Tuesday. We are a young team, most of the boys are young and some of them it’s their first time to play international football so once we start gelling everything will be possible. Against Lesotho we started slow, but as the game progressed we started to play well and created a number of chances. It's a positive thing for us. "We just need to put the ball on the back of the net," he said.

Zimbabwe will now have to focus on the big match against South Africa set for Bloemfontein tomorrow looking for an outright win to rekindle their hopes of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup finals.

Any other result, and their chances would be effectively over.

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