There can be no greater honour for any person than to represent his/her country regardless of the activity or endeavour.
For referee Victor Miguel de Freitas Gomes, that moment came on Thursday ahead of the Afcon final in Egypt between Senegal and Algeria. It would have been an honour deservedly bestowed on the whistler from Johannesburg, but it was not to be.
He was one of the top contenders for the prestigious appointment. News of his appointment first appeared on CAF’s official Twitter account and then on Safa’s website.
However, elation soon turned to despair when, on Thursday morning, CAF released the names of the match officials from Cameroon.
Why did this happen? How could it happen? Only the powers that be know. It appears someone “jumped the gun” in assuming that Gomes would be the referee and posted this assumption on social media.
Is there a “mole” in CAF’s media office? Is there a rogue element that is out to sow distrust and confusion? If there is, then they have a lot to answer for.
Gomes has been a consistent, if sometimes controversial, middleman since his first whistle in the PSL in 2008 and at international level in 2011. There’s no doubting his dedication and honesty.
Twice winner of the coveted referee of the season award – 2012/13 and 2017/18 – he was always destined for the top of his profession. Such was his commitment to it.
There is no substitute – excuse the pun – for hard work, determination, and blood, sweat and even a few tears, if you want to get to the top.
Many people fail to recognise the huge sense of pride and honour that match officials feel over such a high-profile appointment. But, believe me, we, like players, have the same feelings and emotions.
Last year, Gomes was hailed by Safa after he rejected and reported an attempted bribe of more than R300 000 to fix a CAF Confederation Cup match between Nigerian side Plateau United and Algerian side USM Alger.
To some, the temptation may have been great, but Gomes found it an insult that someone could believe that he could be tempted. Such is the character of the man. And he is now greatly regarded throughout Africa for his honesty, integrity and professionalism.
Some teams know that, sadly, there are referees and assistant referees who can be influenced. That is a very sad thing in an area of soccer where being above reproach is paramount.
I had only one such experience during my refereeing career and it was in South Africa. The person who approached me is now dead, but I’m not going to reveal the name. I felt deeply insulted and hurt that anyone could even remotely believe I would betray my good name for the sake of money.
I remember the day very well. I reacted very angrily to the person who had approached me.
I couldn’t believe that this person (I’m being very careful to not even divulge the gender of the person) didn’t seem the slightest bit surprised. In fact, there appeared to be a level of disappointment on the face and in the eyes of the individual concerned.
That made me even angrier that someone would believe that I could be “bought” or that this was somehow standard practice.
And although it happened a long time ago, I still feel a sense of outrage almost at the audacity of the person who approached me in such a calm way and with such a request.
I always live by my philosophy that if your sell your honesty, you sell your soul. If you sell your soul, you have nothing left.
Victor Gomes, you are a credit to yourself, to your family, to your country and to your profession.
I hope others will watch you and learn how to become a top-class match official.
You are a shining example of what refereeing is all about and I would like to wish you every success in the future with the whistle.
Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol