The local football fans were glued to their television sets on Saturday afternoon to watch an Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) round 16 fixture between holders Cameroon and Nigeria.
With the match dubbed a final before final, considering success stories of the two giants, the local fans’ interest was on local referee, Joshua Bondo.
He was the central whistle man for the mouth-watering encounter. The Super Eagles of Nigeria played their 90th AFCON match while it was the 84th for the Indomitable Lions.
In front of a half-filled stadium, the 20, 000 capacity Alexandria Stadium hosted the two giants that have eight AFCON titles between them. However, the Senete-born referee was unfazed by the magnitude of the tie and was impressively correct in his decision-making. Bondo stamped his authority on the match as early as the second minute when he ruled that Nigerian striker, Odion Ighalo had fouled his defensive opponents.
Sprinter, as he is fondly known, was at his usual energetic mood and was close to action at every moment of the game. His highlight came on the 63rd minute when he allowed Ighalo’s equaliser. Bondo did not have the benefit of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), but as he was a few metres from the action, he was able to make a correct decision on the ‘moment of the game’.
Cameroon lead 2-1 until the 62nd minute as Nigerian skipper, Ahmed Musa flicked a cross with his chest unto Ighalo’s path. The striker who was unmarked inside the , appeared to be offside as he coolly tucked home from eight yards to make it 2-2. As the Cameroonians protested for an offside, Bondo gave the goal. His positioning gave him benefit to fully make a judgement on the goal. The 2018/2019 BTC Premiership referee of the year, received praise across the continent for his solid performance on the game. Even Ighalo shook Bondo’s hand when he was substituted on 76th minute.
This was Bondo’s second AFCON tournament; his highlight was the CAF Champions League semifinal clash between Wydad Casablanca and Mamelodi Sundowns in April.
Meanwhile South Africa, put on a brave performance to knock out the host, Egypt. Bafana Bafana became victorious thanks to an 85th minute Thembinkosi Lorch goal to set up a mouthwatering quarterfinal clash against Nigeria. Benin will face Senegal in the other quarterfinal. Benin managed an upset over Morocco with a 4-1 win on penalty shootouts while Senegal beat Uganda 1-0 on Friday.