Female referees have alleged that players and coaches of some Super League clubs shout discrimatory insults at them when protesting against officiation.
Meanwhile, the referees, without naming the offenders, fear that the verbal abuses, which they say were rife this season, have the potential to drive women away from the profession.
As the elite league season winds up tomorrow, the referees made the allegations in a series of interviews with Weekend Nation this week.
“We understand when the abuses come from supporters because some are uncivilised. But to endure such abuses from coaches and players, it’s something painful because we expect them to know and respect the rules of the game,” said referee Charity Ndozi who also officiates in international matches.
Another referee Happiness Mbandambanda said most of the cards she flashes for dissent come about because the players verbally demean her for being a woman.
“They call you hule for a decision that hasn’t gone their way, but you rarely see the players perpetually abusing male referees. This simply means they target women,” she said.
Mbandambanda also said one of the phrases commonly used is: “What are you doing in the sport that is meant for men?”
Bernadette Kwimbira, a Federation of International Football Associations (Fifa) recognised referee said the abuses could have been eliminated if football authorities severely punished the offenders.
“If football officials took tough action against offending coaches others might have learned a lesson,” she said. “But I also believe that if supporters that perpetrate abuses were tracked and punished the story could have been different.”
However, the referees admitted that they rarely report some of the incidents to Super League of Malawi (Sulom) or the National Football Referees Association (NFRA) because they have accepted that abuses are part of the game.
“The abuses have the potential to drive us out of this profession. But we are not weak-hearted. We just encourage each other to soldier on and take the abuses as part of the sport.
“We also take comfort in the fact that the benefits of this career are greater than the torture we face. For example, when we are pencilled to officiate international matches we receive a lot of money,” Kwimbira boasted.
NFRA general secretary Chris Kalichero said the referees are supposed to officially report the abusive coaches and players.
“This could enable us to lodge complaints to Sulom or Football Association of Malawi (FAM) so that the perpetrators are pursued and punished,” he said.
FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda described the abuses as unfortunate while promising that the soccer mother body would take a strong stand against the abuses.
“Though we have not officially received any complaints but it’s sad that the female referees are being harassed.
“What we will do is to raise anti-referees abuse awareness. Thereafter, we will make sure we take tough action against offenders. Such abuses defeat the Fifa pillars that aim at woo ingmore women into football,” he said. n