Wow, I can’t believe it’s that time of the year again. Not so long ago, the football season was in its final days and here we are, gearing up for a new one.
For leagues that start this month and next, many teams are already involved in preseason friendlies.
They go through rigorous physical and mental preparations, pitting their skills and expertise against other teams, including some from other countries.
It’s a regular thing now for clubs to arrange matches in far-flung countries, including China, Japan, Australia and the US. Some will participate in cup competitions as part of their preparations.
But while you are thinking and perhaps talking about teams of 11 players plus substitutes, spare a thought for the teams of four – the match officials.
Gone are the days when referees would turn up for a game without proper preparation, and thank goodness for that.
Match officials – referees and assistant referees, including fourth officials – also go through a rigorous preseason programme similar to that of the players with one exception – the refs also have to sit for a written test.
As you are reading this article, South African match officials and match commissioners are being put through their paces.
The course, which started last Monday and runs until Wednesday, is being held at the Garden Court Milpark hotel in Johannesburg.
The course is split into two groups to accommodate everyone. Each group has 20 referees, 40 assistant referees and 20 match commissioners in attendance.
So, in total, there are 40 referees, 80 assistants and 40 match commissioners who will serve on the national panel for the 2019/20 season.
These people will service the PSL, the NFD and the MultiChoice Diski Challenge.
This annual preseason course is run under the auspices of Fifa and has very experienced instructors in Lim Kim Chong from Mauritius and Felix Tangawarima from Zimbabwe.
Both are members of CAF’s referees committee and are former international referees.
The physical side is handled by Tracey Lovell from South Africa, who is assisted by Derek Hanson, a local Fifa Futuro-trained instructor.
Also assisting Lovell and Hanson are Enock Molefe, former World Cup assistant referee; Abdul Ebrahim and Deirdre Zealand (technical); Madoda Sapula and Refilwe Tshigeng (fitness); and Johnny du Toit (information technology).
Members of the review committee are also present to see what match officials and match commissioners are being taught.
Activities include discussions and amendments to the laws of the game, various match incidents covering the penalty area, handball, offside, game management, and reading and positioning. There will be tests on each subject.
Then there will be practical training with players, which is called integrated training. All match officials will do drills with players and get feedback from instructors.
As you can see, it is quite an intensive course and this proves that Safa is pulling out all the stops to ensure that match officials and match commissioners are getting the very best in training to equip them with the skills and knowledge for the season ahead.
Refereeing is no longer about refs just turning up on the day with a whistle.
It’s very serious business and it’s so pleasing to see that it is being taken seriously and that the guys involved are being given the respect and treatment they truly deserve.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all concerned the very best of luck and to say a big thank you to Safa for facilitating this excellent course.
It’s a step in the right direction and this can only lead to match officials from South Africa being right up there with the best in Africa and the world.