Safa’s deafening silence on bumbling refs

Referee Victor Gomes gets accosted by Bidvest Wits players Thabang Monare and Sifiso Hlanti   Picture: Lee Warren / Gallo Images
Referee Victor Gomes gets accosted by Bidvest Wits players Thabang Monare and Sifiso Hlanti Picture: Lee Warren / Gallo Images

You know things are wrong in football when match officials hog the limelight more than players do. It’s even worse when the governing body doesn’t seem to care, writes Timothy Molobi.

Match officials’ performances rather than the brilliance of players and coaches’ astuteness seem to have become the talking point after every game lately.

Coaches are crying foul, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears so far as no action is taken against the erratic refs, except in the SuperSport United versus Bidvest Wits match.

Wits were the latest to be hard done by when they were denied a clear goal last weekend against United, which dealt a hammer blow to the Clever Boys’ already slim chance of challenging for the league title.

Wits’ coach Gavin Hunt was left speechless at the end of the game after the ball, which clearly crossed the goal line, was ruled a “no goal” by referee Phelelani Ndaba and his assistant Abel Maphutha (incidentally, the latter’s name in isiZulu translates as “mistakes”).

“It [the goal] has changed the whole season. The hardest thing to do in this country is to win. I feel for the players as they have worked so hard this season,” said Hunt after the game.

Some match officials were surprised when Safa this week announced that it had demoted Ndaba to lower divisions for his mistake.

One quipped: “We are still awaiting the outcome of Victor [Gomes’] review after his mistake in the game between Golden Arrows and AmaZulu last year.

“Nothing happened to him, yet they are quick to punish Phelelani. There is no fairness in Safa,” he said.

Mamelodi Sundowns’ coach Pitso Mosimane has also made his feelings known about the standard of officiating in the league, and Cape Town City’s Benni McCarthy had jumped on the bandwagon.

It’s even worse in the NFD, with one coach calling for a rematch after claiming his side was robbed.

Although match officials are bound to make mistakes, Safa’s silence on the matter is deafening. Poor standards in officiating are bound to have an effect on the brand of football as players and coaches can’t be at their best when match officials don’t raise their standards.

Referees seem to be a law unto themselves as they know that their mistakes go unpunished, yet they can cost clubs millions. Some even lose their status as they eventually get relegated.

This week, match commissioner Mark Lindon was blasted for allowing Wayne Arendse to take to the field in October even though he was not on the team sheet, a breach of the NSL rules.

Quantity over quality

Safa’s promotion of more than 10 new officials at the start of this season was tantamount to expecting them to perform miracles.

One match official summed it up bluntly: “They are microwave cooked and you cannot expect them to perform at the highest level when they are not well cooked.”

The official placed the blame for the declining standards on Safa’s administration.

“All they want to achieve is to say: ‘We have promoted these youngsters.’ But at what cost? This is unfair to clubs because their inexperience is showing and clubs are on the receiving end,” he said.


Some senior officials have alleged that there is favouritism and a divide and rule mind-set within the referees’ department. There is an allegation that a senior referee failed a fitness test, but was allowed back without sitting out the mandatory six-weeks “cooling off” period.

“It is a standard practice that, when you fail a test, you stay in the freezer for six weeks, but he was retested immediately. The question is, why him?” asked another official.

International panel

South Africa used to be the envy of other African countries when it came to international match officials as it had about 12 officials on the CAF panel. Now Gomes is the only active South African referee on the panel. Daniel Bennett has the badge, but is sitting at home and not being considered for games since his blunder in 2017 in a game between Ghana and Uganda. Chris Harrison was included in the panel, but cannot officiate as he still has to undergo the compulsory fitness test.

Newcomer Eugene Mdluli has been limited to fourth official roles in CAF.

Assistant referee Zakhele Siwela has been flying the country’s flag high.

Another assistant, Athuxolo Madela, failed a fitness test during the recent referees’ workshop. The other five assistant referees have not had a game since January.

As a result, South Africa does not have a team, and Gomes and Siwela are now being paired with Matheus Kanyanga from Namibia. The trio were due to officiate at yesterday’s CAF Champions League semifinal second leg between TP Mazembe and Espérance in Lubumbashi.

City Press has been making enquiries and following up with Safa for three weeks, but the football governing body has failed to respond.


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