At the last African Cup of Nations (AFCON) held in Cameroon, only one Nigerian, Samuel Pwadutakam was selected as a match official for the biennial tournament. This came as a shock to many as even the football leaders, promised to right the refereeing wrongs.
The 38-year-old was the only elected official as an Assistant referee out of the 63 match officials who officiated the tournament.
The year is 2023 and this time, no match official was selected from the most populous black nation on earth for Africa’s biggest tournament. To the shock of many, CAF on Tuesday, listed 85 match officials and none is from the acclaimed ‘Giant of Africa’.
But, one man is not shocked, he saw this coming due to the ‘politics’ ongoing at the Nigeria Referee Association. Chukwujekwu Chukwudi Calistus, a retired CAF/ FIFA referee in an exclusive interview with Sharon Ekiwhere of Platinum News at the Nigeria National League Referee Assessor Seminar for the 2023/24 season organized by the Nigeria Football Federation in Benin City, revealed a lot and why the exclusion did not come as a shock.
“No Nigeria referee was supposed to be listed and the reason is obvious. At the Confederation of African Football (CAF) they grade their referees into two grades. Grade A and Grade B.
“No Nigeria referee has appeared in that list except assistant referee Samuel Pwadutakam from Adamawa who was at the last AFCON. Expectedly, he should have made the list. He made the list last time as someone else was in charge of the African Referees Directorate (Eddy Maillet) as of then. The person had the knack for selecting referees from different countries to work together.
“The new head at the Africa Referee Directorate (Noumandiez Doue), prefers the Europe standard of one country for the referees. Samuel is not a referee, he is graded as an assistant referee and the new director is not keen on multiple nationalities working as match officials.” Mr Calistus revealed.
When the interviewer mentioned Somalia referees making the list, Mr. Calistus raised an important point.
“Somalia has been working for this for years as a CAF is made up of 54 equal Nations. Nigeria is big, are we doing the right things and doing due diligence?”
Speaking about future representation, the retired FIFA referee confidently told Platinum News that no Nigeria referee might be called up even for AFCON 2025.
“I am not expecting anybody in the next 2 years.” the retired FIFA referee stated.
He however expressed optimism that things will soon change within the match officiating scene as there is a new head of referees.
“A whole lot of things involved in referee selection beyond the actual performance of the referees on the pitch. But we now have Faith Irabor as the head of Nigeria referees and no longer politicians.” He said.