Absa Premiership

Highlands v Chiefs: When the ref vetoed winning goal

Highlands Park players (Gallo Images)
Highlands Park players (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - It was in many ways one of the most explosive, dramatic and bizarre matches in South African soccer a matter of 37 years ago when Kaizer Chiefs played the recently-resurrected Highlands Park in the Mainstay Cup final at the Rand Stadium and the referee vetoed the apparent winning goal in the final minutes of extra-time for fear it would precipitate a riot.

Wednesday night's resumption of the Highlands-Chiefs rivalry in a Premier League game at the Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa recalls the throbbing, mesmerising encounter in 1979 when all mayhem broke loose at one point among an over-filled 50 000 crowd at a venue meant for no more than 37 000 spectators in what ended as a 3-3 draw.

With the teams level in the dying seconds of the game, Andy Stanton swooped like an eagle to head home a corner and score what appeared a stunning winning goal.

However, earlier in the match, following the refusal of Chiefs' Bull Lehoko to leave the field after being shown a red card, thousands of spectators invaded the pitch in what threatened to become a situation imbued with danger to body and limb for all and sundry.

While order was finally restored after the indignant Lehoko belatedly left the field - although soon afterwards Highlands' Julie Kaplan suffered a similar red-card fate - the pall of zealous emotions breaking loose again remained over the match and was not lost on referee David Griffiths' mind when he disallowed Highlands' late, late goal.

He admitted afterwards he had disallowed Stanton's header because he feared all hell might break loose in what had been a tempestuous, but fascinating encounter.

Times have changed and while the compact Makhulong Stadium that holds little more than 8 000 spectators is again likely to be filled beyond its capacity for the PSL game on Wednesday night, soccer alone without controversy will hopefully be the winner on what is in many ways a nostalgic occasion.

For the record, the 1979 Mainstay Cup Final, in what was a soccer era in which an element of the heady wild west often filled the air, was replayed at Orlando Stadium three days later and Chiefs held sway with a domineering 2-0 victory.

Those were the days -  and after all these years it is more than a little symbolic to find Chiefs and Highlands in opposition again

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