It is with regret and sadness that I have noticed that not one referee or assistant referee from South Africa will be at the Fifa U-20 World Cup in Poland this year.
Thankfully, the national team will be, but that is no consolation from a refereeing perspective.
In the past, local match officials were regarded as some of the best on the continent.
This time, however, they are conspicuous by their absence and that is a concern for all, especially Safa, whose responsibility it is to ensure our refs are part of global showpieces.
On a positive note, refereeing is represented in the form of Jerome Damon from Cape Town. He will be there as a Fifa and CAF instructor, and that is to be welcomed.
I remember first noticing him at a Safa Under-17 tournament in June and July in 1996. I was taken by his presence and application. He was young, but there was an air of confidence about him that was refreshing.
One could be forgiven for thinking that this column is all about Damon, because it is. His record at local, CAF and Fifa level is impressive.
He was first promoted to the Fifa list of international elite referees in 2000. It wasn’t long before the appointments to top-class games and competitions came.
Four Africa Cup of Nations finals (Tunisia in 2004, Egypt in 2006, Ghana in 2008 and Angola in 2010); three Fifa U-17 World Cup finals (Finland in 2004, Peru in 2005 and Nigeria in 2009); two World Cup finals (Germany in 2006 and South Africa in 2010); one Olympic Games (Beijing in 2008); one CAF Confederation Cup (Tunisia in 2010); and one Fifa Club World Club Championship (Japan in 2006).
Remember, he came to prominence only in 1996 and had a meteoric rise through the refereeing ranks in successive years until he retired in 2013 to move into the area of match inspector/commissioner.
This seemed a natural progression for a young man who gave many years of professional dedication to refereeing, and should act as an inspiration to all aspiring match officials.
He’s in Poland as a match analyst, where he will be evaluating match officials and write up the appropriate reports.
He’ll also be selecting clips from the games for discussion while debriefing referees in the after-match debate.
There will be practical training in which the group will be divided into four:
1. Video assistant referee (VAR) practical training: This group will train with players (two teams) and simulate match situations. On the field, there is a mobile VAR set up so they simulate exactly what happens in a match. There is an instructor in the video operations room listening in and watching the VAR work to give them feedback. Then there is an instructor in the review area to listen in on the communication between the on-field match officials and the VAR officials, and give feedback. Another instructor will be on the field to control the players and match situations. Each day, there will be focus on a subject such as quick restarts with counterattack or high pressing and penalty area incidents.
2. Integrated training: On another field, a group will practise match situations with players and get instant feedback from an instructor in a mobile van. Each scenario is recorded and feedback is given to the on-field officials when they come into the van. One instructor will be on the field controlling the players and match scenarios.
3. Another group will be on another field doing physical training, depending on their match days. These sessions are controlled by the fitness coaches.
4. Another group will stay in the hotel in the VAR simulator. A clip will be played with various inputs and the VAR will have to simulate communicating with a referee on the field.
Unfortunately, I’ve run out of space, but I will continue next week to show what is required to have top-class match officials control games.