Mr Joseph “The Fire Extinguisher” Mammba. Photo: Frank Mavhungu.

Joseph 'The Fire Extinguisher' Mammba retires from refereeing


After wielding the whistle for 26 years, Mr Joseph Mammba from Hamakhuvha village in the Vhufuli area has retired from refereeing.

Mammba started his refereeing career in 1997 when he was just 27 years old. He singled out Mr. Rudzani Mulaudzi and Mr. Livhuwani Netshiongolwe as his role models. Mulaudzi and Netshiongolwe are now match commissioners at the professional level.

After officiating in the Sibasa Football Association (now Thulamela Local Football Association) for four seasons, Mammba was promoted to the then Castle Regional League. While officiating in the Castle Regional League, Mammba took elementary and intermediate refereeing exams, both of which he passed with distinction. He was later promoted to officiate in the Vodacom Promotional League, now known as the ABC Motsepe League.

As a teacher, Mammba found officiating in midweek games challenging. This prompted him to request his superiors to exempt him from officiating in the higher league. The referees’ selectors granted his request, and as a result, Mammba officiated in Safa Vhembe Regional League matches until he decided to retire.

Mammba recalled that his most difficult game was between Musina United and Berea FC, played at the Musina Old Mine Stadium in Musina. The game was abandoned towards the end after Berea had scored an equalising goal. When asked if he had experienced assault as a match official in his refereeing career, the 53-year-old Mammba mentioned that he was fortunate not to have encountered such incidents throughout his career.

He did, however, recall a moment when he felt his life was in danger. This was during a match between Giyani United and Vhonani XI Arrows, when players and fans of Giyani United became unruly, threatening his safety. Mammba earned the nickname “The Fire Extinguisher” for his ability to officiate in high-stakes matches, such as derbies or games that determined relegation or promotion.

Mammba is an educator at Makonde Primary School and he advised young referees to avoid taking bribes to influence match outcomes. He emphasised that those interested in pursuing a career in football refereeing should prioritise their education as refereeing is a short-term career. He expressed his intention to spend the remaining part of his life developing young referees.


Sport - Date: 11 November 2023

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Frank Mavhungu

Frank is a Human Resources Manager at the Department of Public Works in Limpopo. He is the longest serving correspondent of the Mirror, having joined us at the end of 1990.  He mainly writes sports reports and resides at Tsianda Village. In 2004, Frank won the National Castle League Award, an award for the best reporter in the SAB league in South Africa.