As much as it has not been easy for clubs at the receiving end of poor officiating, the same can be said for the national referees’ appointment committee.
This was revealed by the chairperson of the appointment committee, Ari Soldatos, who this week shared his selection headaches with City Press.
“As it is, I don’t know who I’m going to appoint for the Soweto derby,” said Soldatos, referring to this past Saturday's (November 2) Telkom Knockout quarterfinal clash between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.
“To say I have been having sleepless nights would be an understatement. It has been fun, but demanding at the same time. Fortunately, I have been in this position for a long time and I know how to manoeuvre. I always look at the positive side of things because our referees have been doing well; it’s only assistants who have dropped the ball a bit. But we are managing the situation.”
The former assistant referee conceded that it had not been easy for match officials.
“We must understand that referring is difficult, but not without its rewards. There are pros and cons in every field,and refereeing is no different.”
He said one way to manage the situation was to always take the heat away from those under siege.
“If the heat is on you, I would take you away from the limelight and give it to someone else. I remove them long before the review committee can recommend sanctions. I have done this several times and found that it works if the spotlight is not on you often. We need to support our referees, we can’t always bash them. Yes, we understand and know that mistakes do happen and there’s always pressure, but we are trying our best.”
Soldatos said he subscribed to the adage that one man’s loss is another man’s gain, referencing this to those waiting to seize the opportunity.
“Fortunately, we have a fairly good development policy that has been taking good shape over the past few years. We have some good up-and-coming youngsters who are waiting for their moment. Our strategy is to try to give better opportunities to the inexperienced officials and, so far, it has been working well.”
Soldatos said he had observed that some of the officials “lacked the balls” to make tough decisions. Without mentioning names, he could have been referring to Abongile Tom, who failed to send off Cape Town City midfielder Mpho Makola after the player shoved him while protesting a penalty decision the referee had awarded to Chiefs a fortnight ago.
Tom was again in the spotlight this week when he failed to send off Orlando Pirates striker Tshegofatso Mabasa for a crunching tackle on Highlands Park’s Lindokuhle Mbatha.
But Soldatos remained positive about the future, saying they were working hard behind the scenes to help match officials get their act together.
“Most of the middlemen have been doing a great job. The ones struggling are assistant referees, but we will get it right as there is a lot happening behind the scenes to make sure they limit their mistakes.”
However, he warned that it was a case of sink or swim – the choice was theirs.