The much anticipated Madina derby between Validus Football Club and Mobile Phone People Football Club was finally here and both teams were poised for the crunch game week 8 fixture in the Division 2 League (Greater Accra Zone 8). The sandy Madina Estate School Park was the venue and the teeming supporters of both clubs, as well as neutral football enthusiasts, had thronged the park to witness the clash. Validus, the home side, were clad in mauve jerseys and yellow hoses while Mobile Phone People, the away side, donned blue jerseys and white hoses. After a thorough inspection of the identity cards of the players and coin toss won by the away side, all was set for the match to begin. Little did the spectators envisage a rollercoaster in the offing after the referee blew his whistle for the game to commence.
Woefully, the highlights of the match had nothing to do with the dexterity of the players on the pitch nor the brilliance of the coaches on the touchline. What was supposed to be an enthralling encounter culminated in a quagmire? Too many incidents marred the game and left many unimpressed. Perennial problems bedeviling Ghana football such as poor officiating, inadequate security for match officials, and hooliganism were brought to the fore.
Officiating of the game was generally dismal. The major decisions of the referee were really questionable. There were blatant fouls in the game, especially against players of Mobile Phone People but the referee overlooked them. Fans of the team fumed with anger. Then in the 35th minute came a controversial decision which saw Mobile Phone’s Mohammed shown a red card. He was fouled but the referee turned a blind eye to the incident. He flared up and consequently reacted with a bad tackle. In response, the referee called him over and gave him his marching orders. Fans did not take lightly to the sending off of their instrumental midfielder and so invaded the park to register their displeasure, likewise the bench. Proceedings therefore halted and for a while, it looked as if the impasse would not be resolved. The referee remained adamant about his decision. Calm was later restored and the match resumed. In effect, MPP continued the game with a man down. After seeing out 5 minutes of time added on , the tension-laden first half was brought to a halt.
The second half began with tempers still high. With the advantage that Validus had, one would have thought that they would dominate the game and eventually find the back of the net. On the contrary, they were kept at bay by Mobile Phone People. The visitors rather had more possession of the ball, created decent chances but failed to convert them. The half was still rife with some poor refereeing decisions such as hesitation and failure to make calls, no-issuance of cards to players who committed unpardonable fouls.
One last straw broke the camel’s back:
MPP had cleared the lines after a Validus free-kick. MPP’s Felix Padi, popularly known as ‘Aguero’, had received the ball in his own half and just as he was about to bolt for the counterattack, the linesman erroneously raised his flag to rule him offside. The MPP fans roared in anger. One infuriated spectator slapped the linesman on his blind side. This sparked another kerfuffle. The linesman was upset and intimated his decision to discontinue being on the sideline. The fans hurled a flurry of vituperative words against the officiating team and leveled bribery allegations against the team. Of course, these allegations were unsubstantiated but one thing was clear in their minds: They had been utterly robbed! Some were even of the view that the violent act unleashed on the linesman was good comeuppance. The play was once again delayed until the linesman was cajoled into rescinding his decision. By the time the match resumed, its luster and intensity had fizzled. When it was past 90 minutes, the other linesman signaled the referee a couple of times to end proceedings but he would not budge. 3 additional minutes were thus played.
The game finally came to an end after 96 minutes. The scoreline was 0-0 which meant both teams earned a point apiece.
The military officer, the only security personnel available, immediately walked to the referee and his assistants to offer them protection. While he whisked them away to safety, the fans continued to pass scathing comments at them. Validus FC and their fans were disappointed that they did not maximize their advantage. For Mobile Phone People, however, they were proud that they fought against the odds and stood tall. But for neutrals, they were discontent that the derby did not live up to its full potential due to poor officiating and other recurring issues delaying the progress of football in Ghana.