• Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

BALLPOINT: NIGERIAN REFEREES AND THE “VIBES & INSHALLAH” CONUNDRUM

ByAlibor Andrew

Sep 30, 2023 , , , , ,

The Moustached Journalist says;

It is more quintessential for an officiating referee to man his onion; just as when, where and how to cut it into bits and use them appropriately to resolve obscenity in any football match, especially, in instances where emotions are tense and could easily erupt into an avoidable fracas on the field of play. By any chance, if his decision(s) is/were mostly spontaneous and cohesive to the common rules of the round leather game, a verbal controversy is bound to undo afterwards.

This, at times, has caused a complete despondency in relying on the only neutral being on the pitch to decide what ought to be ethical or otherwise, by the provisions of the sport. These rules were not formed only to be abode by, but also applicable to real-life football-related cases both on and off the pitch. Therefore, it is of ultimate responsibility of the match officials, most especially, the centre referee to take his best shots regarding decision-making with truth, accuracy, independence, and objectivity during games.

Many times I have seen a good number of occasions when indecisions and/or wrong calls by some referees marred the outcome of matches as opposed to fairness and professionalism, even from the lowest to the highest levels of competitive football. Humans are flawed so as referees, therefore, whatever mistakes they make should be rescinded. I bet to defer that it is quite unacceptable in that manner.

Such lackadaisical excuses have long ceased to have a stance, not with the introduction of advanced digital technology – Video Assistant Referee (VAR) into the ever-evolving world of football to help reduce these likeable human errors and to ensure referees can have a rethink to either recall, annul or validate a decision.

Nigerian referees, overtime, have been exposed to lots of criticism and backlashes due to the inconsistencies seen across various matches. This, to an extent, may have overshadowed their ratings at the zonal level, even on the continent and the world stages. If those who ought to fix this mishap choose to lock lips, then, I see no need to contemplate a way out of the maze. Sooner or later, there may not be a place for Nigerian referees on the roadmap in football.

The Minister of Youth & Sports Development, John Enoh, during his inspection at the National Stadium in Abuja a couple of weeks ago, as cited from an online publication of PLATINUM NEWS, dated 24th of August 2023, met with the Referee Assessors at their annual development program where he charged them to be the Africa’s best.

During his time in their midst, he levied the Nigeria Referee Association (NRA) as a legal establishment to constantly upgrade their knowledge with innovations in the game, and apply good measures to the domestic leagues in Nigeria and African football at large.

“Over the years, referees in Nigeria have been heavily criticized over their performances in our leagues, but I want to trust that we will build on the recent successes achieved and win the confidence of our people.”

An extraction from an online publication of THE GUARDIAN, dated 21st of May 2023, “Echoes against Poor Officiating in Local League keep pulsating” says: that football is a team sport in which the referees interact with players many times and influence the course of the game. But their immediate actions go beyond the pitch, as it could either build or destroy the reputation of a country’s football, thereby making things difficult for managers of the league to secure quality sponsorship to run their affairs.

Over the years, the profile of the country’s referees has continued a downward slide as poor officiating has been the talking point, both in the elite Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) and the lower divisions. Such alleged corrupt practices have ensured that Nigerian referees are not considered in competitions organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), and the world’s top football governing body, the Federation of International Football (FIFA).

For many managers in the league, the fear of referees is the beginning of wisdom, as cries of “daylight” robbery by the referees are a frequent occurrence at league venues. In some cases, the men in black uniforms are made to pay for their “sins” by the fans, who find it difficult to tolerate their actions.

However, it is no news that referees are mostly intimidated, harassed and beaten up by home spectators, especially, in the Nigeria top-flight division. This, over the years, has been more of a threaded threat to Nigerian football and its depiction in the world of the sport at large. However, both the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the defunct League Management Company (LMC) now known as Interim Management Committee (IMC) have sanctioned a handful of local club sides with outrageous fines, playing away from home, deduction of points, and just to mention a few to curb this parasitic vice eating up our football.

Perhaps, we may get to a juncture where drastic measures would be taken to fortify our referees with accoutrements against pitch bullying, oppression and harassment at the respective stadia. Otherwise, most officials would live in fear of being attacked and molested by pitch invaders if things don’t go in the way of the home team. One will not also deny the rumour that these referees, at times, are handsomely paid by the highest bidder in the league to manipulate games in their favour, especially, on home grounds.

Recall that in a bid to return to the apex of football refereeing, the Ibrahim Musa Gusau-led executive board of the NFF shortlisted 115 local referees to undergo a 15-day intensive training course from FIFA refereeing instructors over two months ago, as extracted from an online publication of DAILY TRUST, dated 4th of July 2023, it would be recalled that no Nigerian referee has officiated at the FIFA World Cup while CAF in the last decade has not considered any Nigerian referee for the Africa Cup of Nations. Due to a lack of consistency in the nomination of referees for FIFA and CAF seminars, Nigerian referees were always ignored by these football bodies.

Speaking during the visit by the instructors, the President of NFF, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau called on FIFA refereeing instructors who are in Nigeria, to help improve the lot of Nigerian referees to a level that they would be regularly considered for major FIFA and CAF assignments.

“We have our teams regularly taking part in major competitions in Africa and the world, and it is always a painful thing seeing referees from other countries while we hardly get to see our compatriots of the whistle. We want you to take up this assignment beyond the regular instruction courses; you should endeavour to communicate with them all the time, encourage them, support them and give them tips that will keep improving them to get to the top.”

Moreover, a constant turnover of referee assessments at our national, state and grassroots cadres of football would not only revive the trust but possibly boost their status and revamp the decomposition of the Nigerian refereeing structure. This would come to pass when our referees are equipped with needed resources, seminars, willpower, safety and standard welfarism to autonomously strive and compete with their foreign counterparts.

Perchance, when more of these are done to revise the Nigerian refereeing structure, we may likely get a shot at having one of our very own referees taking charge of one of these CAF lesser tournaments in the next 5-10 years. Until then, we can still go back to the drawing board if there is any space left on it.

Photos source: Google

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