Assistant referee Isaac Mbofana, 34, was pronounced dead on the spot during a pub league match in the central village of Takawira on Thursday, the Telegraph reports. It is believed the suspected attacker, 31-year-old Onismo Sichani, was part of a group of fans who grew angry at the offside call.
“A misunderstanding ensued between the two resulting in Sichani picking up a log, which he used to strike Mbofana once on the head,” Sergeant Thandiwe Khumalo, acting Midlands police spokeswoman, told a local Zimbabwe newspaper. “Mbofana fell down and died instantly. After [realizing] that Mbofana was dead, Sichani fled from the scene.”
Police have launched a full murder investigation and are actively pursuing the suspect.
Unfortunately, fan violence against soccer officials is nothing new, the Independent notes. In 1995, a study conducted by the Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research in Leicester, U.K., reported that nearly half of the sport’s referees had considered quitting the game due to “harassment by players/fans.”
In a now-infamous incident during the European Championship qualifiers in 2007, a match between Sweden and Denmark had to be abandoned in the 89th minute when a Danish fan invaded the pitch and attempted to attack a referee for awarding a penalty kick, USA Today notes.
In September, a Ukrainian fan ran onto the field and tried to choke a linesman, eventually requiring five police officers to restrain him, according to Yahoo!
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