Referees and assistant refs are no different from all football players in their aspiration to represent their countries.
Firstly, it’s the ambition of all match officials to be involved in the premier leagues in their respective countries. Following on from that is to be appointed to the Fifa list of elite referees, and finally to be appointed to officiate at continental tournaments and the World Cup. Nothing wrong with that.
It has been said that there is favouritism for match officials from certain regions, but I’m not so sure that is correct.
One only gets out what one puts in, and I firmly believe that, if the effort is there, and the determination and hard work are endured, then the rewards will follow.
Recently the referees and assistant refs, including the video assistant referees and others, were announced for the Tokyo Olympics. The usual “big guns” are on that list, as would be expected for such a major tournament.
I was quite surprised to see only one South African referee on that list. That not only surprised me, but also filled me with extreme disappointment.
We used to be up there – front and centre – when it came to appointments to handle matches at international level. However, today there is only one person.
Victor Gomes is going to Japan to officiate at the Games alone. I see other countries have two and three match officials, including women, but not South Africa.
Now the obvious question that needs to be answered is, why? Why only one? And why no women?
Is it something to do with football politics? Surely not now, since we have the president of CAF in Patrice Motsepe to speak on our behalf.
Is it to do with the training and development? Can, and should, more be done in that area?
Is there something wrong with the developmental programmes that we are not turning out whistle men and women who can be up there with the best of CAF and Fifa?
What exactly is the problem? Can someone please put their finger on the problem and get it sorted?
In 1998, Ari Soldatos, Achmat Salie and the late Ian McLeod kept the South African flag flying at the World Cup in France, but this seems like a distant memory.
Salie went on to distinguish himself by running the line in the final between France and Brazil. I’m happy to say that I was a coach and mentor to these guys and it’s something I am proud of. Subsequent to that, we had Jerome Damon, who is now plying his trade as a CAF commissioner and lecturer. And then there’s assistant referee Enock Molefe from Bloemfontein in the Free State.
Both Damon and Molefe performed with distinction, having been to two World Cups (2006 and 2010), one Olympic Games (in China 2008), three Fifa Under-17 World Cups and four Afcon finals.
They were also involved in many CAF continental club competitive games. I’m delighted to say that I also coached and mentored Damon and Molefe.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not touting for a job. However, I do feel there is something amiss and it needs to be addressed or we may end up losing our place in the top echelons of match officiating. That would be an awful shame. Well done, Gomes – I know you’ll do your best and make us all proud to be South Africans.
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