Ref Victor Gomes shares that moment with Mo Salah at Afcon final

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Referee Victor Gomes calling Mohamed Salah to order during the Afcon final between Egypt and Senegal in Younde last Sunday )PHOTO: Sunday Alamba / AP
Referee Victor Gomes calling Mohamed Salah to order during the Afcon final between Egypt and Senegal in Younde last Sunday )PHOTO: Sunday Alamba / AP

SPORT


The image of South African referee Victor Gomes appearing to be handing over his whistle to Liverpool star Mohamed “Mo” Salah during the Afcon final between Senegal and Egypt last Sunday will certainly have a special place in the archives of world football.

While the moment trended on social media for a while during the final, Gomes was a bit economical with the details of that exchange with the Egyptian captain.

“All I can say is that on Sunday, I chose to manage a top-class player in a way I thought would be deemed appropriately responsible. And I think football was the ultimate winner of the day,” Gomes told the media during an event to welcome him and assistant referee Zakhele Siwela at Safa House on Thursday.

“I don’t like to talk about decisions I make on the field. However, I do like to highlight some points for educational purposes. I believe in general we have the responsibility to ensure we report positively on football matters so that everybody understands what we are doing.

“Football has evolved tremendously in the last 10 to 20 years.

Feb 10.2022. AFCON final referee Victor Gomes duri
Referee Victor Gomes during a press conference at the Safa house. Photo: Tebogo Letsie/City Press

The players have evolved if you look at what salaries they earn, they are highly respected. We talk about top players around the world and not just Africa. And I think refereeing also has to evolve. We can’t stick to the old age of officiating and management style.”

The 39-year-old also paid tribute to his assistants Siwela and Souro Phatsoane from Lesotho, who ran the line in the game Senegal won after beating Egypt 4-2 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes. He said:

These are my two brothers when we go to war. I am very ecstatic.

“It just makes the game a bit easier when you know you are in sync.

People think you just wake up one day and get [assigned] a final.

“It doesn’t work like that, it’s lots of seminars and thanks to madam Natasha Tsichlas for always supporting the referees as well as our HOD [Safa head of the referees’ department], Abdul Ebrahim as he’s been a top referee himself and he understands what it takes to be out there.

“Thanks to Safa for giving me the opportunity to represent our country. I represented my country, my family, my local football association, our continent and football in general.

“It’s been a long journey and to get there, it takes a minimum of eight years. I guess Sunday will be a day I’ll never forget.”

Siwela recalled the disappointment of not making it to the final at the 2019 Afcon as the motivating factor behind their success this time.

READ: Afcon hits and misses

“Cameroon was a tournament to remember for me and Victor because we eventually went to the last game [final]. In 2019 we thought we’d go to the final but we had a situation in the Ghana game [in the last 16]. So this time around, I told Victor that ‘let’s take it one game at a time’,” shared Siwela (39).

He added: “Cameroon was also special because it was the first time CAF played 52 matches with the VAR [video assistant referee], something that had never happened in Africa. So there was a lot of history [made]. It was South Africa all the way – from the [CAF] president [Patrice Motsepe] to the lady [Nomcebo Zikode of the Jerusalema song] who sang in the final [during the closing ceremony].”

Ebrahim also reserved special praise for Gomes and Siwela.

He specifically lauded Gomes for putting Salah in his place. He said: 

Extremely well handled. It’s called game management, player management ... and we all know Victor has a lot of that and he has done very well.

“So, it was a message to every player out there, that no matter how famous you are, you are one the 11 [players] and you need to play within the laws of the game.

“The achievement of Victor and Zakhele speaks volumes for the training and the preparation that they go through. It was excellent to witness their performance, but we also need to understand how good their support team is.”

Up next, Ebrahim is hopeful that the pair will make the cut for the World Cup in Qatar later this year.



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Daniel Mothowagae 

Deputy sports editor

+27 11 713 9001
Daniel.Mothowagae@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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