In the wake of Nigeria Referees missing out on the CAF list of 85 referees for a preparatory course for the 2023 AFCON, the head of Nigeria (football) Referee Association (NRA) technical instructors panel, Mr Chukwudi Callistus Chukwujekwu has blamed the decline of the general performance of referees and by extension the decline in the growth and development of referees in the profession over the years on politics and appointment of politicians to head top referee appointment positions.
The retired CAF/FIFA referee acknowledged that Mrs Faith Irabor, the current Chairman of the NFF Referees Appointment Committee is on the right track of correcting what has been a menace to the profession and also ensuring that quality referees are raised in the entire country.
He believes that for Nigerian referees to scale up the ladder to the required grade level needed to get the call-up for CAF or FIFA tournaments, they need to continue improving and growing. He also believes that with the right appointment and selection to officiate games in Nigerian leagues and cup competitions, the best referees will always emerge through the process.
According to him, “a lot of factors come into the selection of referees in Nigeria. But how do we select? That is what I think the new committee headed by Mrs Faith Irabor is trying to correct because hitherto, it has been a political thing. Politicians were heading the committee. It has been a case of, I want this man in, what are the yardsticks? why do you want him? It doesn’t matter, I just want him in.”
“With what she has put in place so far and with what we are expected to put in place, we will see to a very reasonable extent that competent hands are picked from all over Nigeria, wherever the person is.”
He highlighted that contrary to what a lot of people believe, the fact that Nigeria is big and has the largest population in the continent doesn’t guarantee that we will produce the best referees in Africa. He referred Bakary Papa Gassama who hails from the Gambia, a country that isn’t very well populated and is not also a big footballing nation.
He said that the main reason Gassama has a successful career as a referee is because he is an excellent referee. According to him when CAF saw him and knew he was a good material, they picked him up and projected him.
“It is not about a big nation, you play football, do you referee the football?”