Official still lives for the game

2016-10-19 06:00
SOUTH AFRICAN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION match official Job Smith (left) shakes hands with iconic former Bloemfontein Celtic owner Dr Petrus “Whitehead” Molemela. Photos: Teboho Setena

SOUTH AFRICAN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION match official Job Smith (left) shakes hands with iconic former Bloemfontein Celtic owner Dr Petrus “Whitehead” Molemela. Photos: Teboho Setena

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FOOTBALL remains a major part of Job Smith’s life. From an early age, he has been involved in this sport that some refer to as the beautiful game. Smith’s involvement in football saw him handle a dual role – player and referee. Even after he was shot in an accident, the soft-spoken gentleman continued his involvement in football.

He currently serves as a match commissioner and is in the panel of the Premier Soccer League (PSL). His current position carries five distinct roles: complete joint inspection of the state of the pitch prior to the start of the game, ensuring that there are adequate security arrangements, ensuring there is coordination of the playing team officials and the match officials (referees and assistants), observing the total functionality of appointed match officials and submitting a complete report of the match to the appropriate football authority within 48 hours.

Born on a farm near Postmasburg in the Northern Cape, Smith started his journey at primary school, playing in the dusty fields and streets with his peers back in 1972. During this time, his brother and his friends formed a team, enabling Smith to flourish.

“I started to take the game seriously. I landed up at a team called Portland Rovers in Cape Town while attending school there. It was at Rovers that I really cut my teeth as a player and I went on to play for an amateur team, Ajax Woodlands, in Cape Town.” This team is not the same as the current Ajax PSL team.

“The biggest influence on my soccer career was William Louw, who had captained Ajax Woodlands,” says Smith.

Other clubs Smith has played for are African United and Esau Chiefs in his home town of Postmasburg, as well William Pescod Athletics in Kimberley.

Smith says players of Esau Chiefs, William Pescod, Kimberley Celtic, Louisvale Pirates and Paballelo Chiefs were so talented that he finds it difficult to single one of them out.

“There is an abundance of talent in the Northern Cape. It is difficult to single out players from a host of excellent talented players at the time.”

He hanged up his boots in 1993 and decided to pick up the whistle rather than coach to continue his involvement with the beautiful game.

“Back then, you had to do both middle and line duties. I, however, preferred to be a referee, in the middle,” says Smith. He has never officiated in a professional game.

“My refereeing career was cut short before this could happen. I stopped officiating in 1998. I was involved in an unfortunate shooting accident. I got shot through my left leg. I then resorted to becoming a referee instructor,” he says.

His role included conducting fitness tests with a host of match officials like ex-assistant referees Tshepo Modise, Stephen Moshotle, Patrick Phandliwe, Jeff Motsamai and Enoch Molefe.

In the same year, 1998, he survived a knife attack in Cape Town. “During the United Bank inter-provincial tournament in Belhar, I almost got stabbed over a match ball which I wanted to retrieve from thugs,” says Smith. At the same year and tournament he met notable match officials that include Toko Malebo of Bloemfontein.

A memorable moment in Smith’s career was to officiate as a referee in the 2000 International Teachers’ Championship final between South Africa and Zimbabwe. South Africa won 2-0 and this event became a perfect farewell as match official for a man who is a qualified teacher. Smith (53) is armed with a BA Degree and Higher Diploma in Education obtained at the University of the Western Cape.

He continued serving as referee instructor until he was appointed as a match commissioner in the 2007-’08 season.

“I felt honoured when appointed as match official at cup finals,” says Smith.

Among the cup finals he had been appointed to are the 2008 Telkom Knockout (Orlando Pirates v. Ajax Cape Town: 2-1), the 2010 MTN 8 Cup (Orlando Pirates v. Moroka Swallows: 4-2 on penalties), the 2012 MTN 8 Cup (Moroka Swallows v. SuperSport United: 2-1) and the 2014 Nedbank Cup (Orlando Pirates v. Bidvest Wits: 3-1).

Having seen it all in the game, Smith responds thusly on the question of club owners’, coaches’ and supporters’ reactions when things do not favour them:

“Coaches and team owners, as well as supporters, will forever be critical of refereeing decisions when the odds are against them. Some teams become really difficult and unruly.”

It’s no coincidence that Smith’s life revolves around sport. He has been the deputy director of school sport at the Northern Cape Department of Education since 2007. He had been deputy principal at Blinkklip High School in Postmasburg before taking up his current position.

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