MARITZBURG United’s Zimbabwe winger Gabriel Nyoni has been praised for his sportsmanship after his hearty apology to Cape Town United goalkeeper Peter Leeuwenburgh on Friday night.
Nyoni was shown a straight red card five minutes before the break when he planted a boot into Leeuwenburgh’s face during an Absa Premiership match at the Harry Gwala Stadium.
The Zimbabwean had been released by a through ball from Daylon Claasen and with the scores at 0-0, Nyoni stretched his leg hoping to get there first.
It was an ill-timed decision and the referee had no option but to send the Maritzburg winger off.
There was a 10-minute stoppage as medics attended to Leeuwenburgh, who had taken a serious blow to his nose.
In the end, the Cape Town goalkeeper had to be replaced by Sage Stephens as he could not finish the game.
After the game, Nyoni made it a point to visit the Cape Town changing room to offer his apologies to Leeuwenburgh and the rest of his teammates.
“I pray and wish Peter Leeuwenburgh a quick recovery. I apologise for my misjudgment on the pitch which led to his injury and am sorry that he couldn’t finish the match because of it. I also extend my apologies to his family, friends and Club,” Nyoni wrote on Twitter.
Respected South African sports broadcaster Robert Marawa commended Nyoni’s action.
“Speedy recovery Peter…And you Nyoni will continue to fly like the bird that you are. Class,” he wrote.
SuperSport broadcaster Mpho Letsholonyane, who is married to former Kaizer Chiefs star Reneilwe, was also impressed with Nyoni’s conduct in the aftermath of the sending off.
“It was a genuine mistake on your part. No malice intended…Speedy recovery to Peter. Keep your head up. Some lessons are tough but we grow from them,” she wrote.
After the sending off, the Team of Choice, who had been the dominant side, had to switch gear and it was no surprise when Cape Town took the lead nine minutes after the break. Thabo Nodada tapped in from close range after he was left unmarked to meet Bradley Ralani’s cross and beat United goalkeeper Richard Ofori.
Despite being a man down, the Team of Choice refused to crumble as they finally got back into the game courtesy of Jeremy Brockie’s equaliser 17 minutes from time.
The draw saw United remain in sixth place on the log with 27 points from 20 games to trail leaders Kaizer Chiefs by 18 points.
Maritzburg coach Eric Tinkler was pleased with how his team responded following Nyoni’s red card.
“I thought we didn’t take our chances. Our transitions in the first half were very brilliant, I think we should have taken the lead in the first 20-30 minutes,” Tinkler said.
“We were always threatening from the diagonals and the balls from the wings but we didn’t put the ball in the back of the next.
“I think the game completely changed when Gabriel got sent off.
“We had to go into defensive mode, we had to change the system but I’m very proud of my boys.
“They worked their socks off tonight which is something I asked and I requested and they gave it to me tonight so they can be very proud of themselves to come back after going 1-0 down and still showed the character.”