The day the referee stole Downs' glory

Sundowns' Roger Feutmba celebrates scoring in the Rothmans Cup final against Chiefs at FNB Stadium 20 years ago, with Fire Masilela on his back. Chiefs won on penalties. /PAUL VELASCO
Sundowns' Roger Feutmba celebrates scoring in the Rothmans Cup final against Chiefs at FNB Stadium 20 years ago, with Fire Masilela on his back. Chiefs won on penalties. /PAUL VELASCO

Today marks 20 years since the 1998 Rothmans Cup final between Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns, which is easily one of the most memorable football matches in SA football in the PSL era.

That famous final at FNB invokes contrasting emotions for supporters. While it brings delight to Chiefs' fans, for Sundowns followers that match remains painful.

After a 2-2 draw in 120 minutes of football, Chiefs emerged 2-1 winners in the penalty shootout and R1m richer.

But it was what happened after the regulation 90 minutes that brought the biggest controversy. With scores level at 2-2 in extra-time, Joel "Fire" Masilela scored a clear goal that would have won the Brazilians the title, after an assist from Alex Bapela.

But dubiously, assistant referee Tiny Chandermoney flagged Masilela for offside in a shocking moment for local football with minutes left on the clock.

Masilela remembers that encounter like it was yesterday as he recounted that moment that should have made the score 3-2 to Sundowns.

"I wasn't even aware that it is 20 years ago. What a memory. Even today people talk about it like it just happened yesterday," Masilela told Sowetan.

"People always tell me it was daylight robbery. I should have been a hero in that game but that was taken away."

Sundowns' midfield general at time, Roger Feutmba, admits that the players and the fans felt they were robbed.

"Even to this day when I meet fans they always tell me about that disallowed goal," Feutmba said.

"For Sundowns fans that will always be very painful. Everybody could see that Fire was not offside, because he was running from the back. When I remember that I feel like we were robbed," he said.

"Losing in that manner was painful. Downs were the best team at that time, but we carried on winning trophies."

Although Downs lost twice to Chiefs in 1998 and the previous year, they eventfully clinched it in 1999 against Free State Stars.

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