It had to take the intervention of Presidential Cup Southern Region chairperson Raphael Humba, to convince the whistle men to officiate the game.
The game, which was expected to start at 2.30pm at Liwonde Community ground, started 45 minutes late when the referees refused to officiate claiming organisers owe them K105 000 (about $420) in game allowances.
Chairperson for Machinga Football League (MFL) Jowati Maliwa described the claims as baseless and that it was just a misunderstanding on the part of the referees.
When the guest of honour, the district commissioner, member of Parliament for Machinga Likwenu and spectators were already seated and teams were ready, there was no referee in sight.
Humba, in the company of district organisers, pleaded with the referees to officiate the match. He suggested they discuss the issue after the match, to which they agreed.
In an interview, Eastern Region referees vice-chairperson Felix Makolija said district organisers had been elusive on the issue of their dues.
Said Makolija: “Initially, we were told we would be getting K3 000 (about $12) per game. [But] the organisers started asking us to send them one referee to officiate a game and in the process paid them K1 000 (about $4), without providing them transport. When we tried to get a clarification from them after the semi-finals, they played hide-and-seek; hence, the decision to boycott the final.”
Makolija said out of K189 000 (about $756) allocated to the referees for 63 games, they received K83 000 (about $332) only.
“Our job is risky and we should not be abused by some greedy people,” he said.
But Maliwa countered: “Their demands are baseless. We agreed to pay K3 000 (about $12) each game per set of referees, not one. Most of the games we used one referee and the rational thing we did was to give K1 000 ($4) to that official.”
After the game, the referees held discussions with the organisers and Humba where they were told they would be given K10 500 (about $42) not what they demanded.
During the finals, Nsanama lifted the trophy with a 3-1 victory.