AFRICAN REFEREES LET DOWN AFRICAN SOCCER
*Tonight I wil be analysing the final of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON ) 2013 for the BBC SWAHILI service from London for the Ulimwengu wa soka programme remembering the last FIFA World Cup 2010 which was held in the same country. With the World Cup the referees were good but this time with the African Cup of Nations the referees have not performed well.
It is very obvious that the kind of soccer displayed by the competing African teams in this year’s AFCON tournament in South Africa has proved that Africa has highly advanced in soccer to the extent that if FIFA starts a continental competition, Africa will have the strongest squad. Look how good Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, DR Congo are among the underdogs in this year’s Africa’s biggest international tournament, let alone giants like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana and the likes.
In the near future, we will come up with a strong argument that Africa should have at least eight teams in the World cup instead of the current five. If we have giants like Nigeria , Ghana , Ivory Coast , Cameroon and Tunisia , who are five already, where shall Senegal , Morocco , Algeria , Egypt and Guinea be accommodated? What about the Angola , Zambia , South Africa , DR Congo and Mali?
Where shall the up and coming Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde and Togo be accommodated? Why don’t we believe that Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia are of the same status as the Nigerians, the Ghanaians and the Ivorians, given their remarkable positive changes in soccer?
Despite all the development of its soccer, Africa is let down by poor refereeing which in some occasions is not caused by human errors but deliberate childish sentiments of bias! Human errors in refereeing is made by deciding controversially for and against both teams but if that is made one-sidedly, then even children will see it very clearly that there is bias perpetrated. This is a shame.
Incidents of that nature were an order of the day in this year’s AFCON competition but referee Jdidi Slim from Tunisia exceeded in being biased towards Ghana and against Burkina Faso in the semi-final match he officiated between the two teams. He made a number of controversial decisions in favour of the former and against the latter but four controversies were seriously devastating to the latter.
First, he awarded a very simple penalty to Ghana for a contact which was not a foul even if it had been committed anywhere on the pitch, let alone in the penalty box where for a foul to justify award of penalty, the foul ought to be serious enough. That referee was supposed to flash a yellow card to that Ghanaian player for simulation. Indeed, that was not a penalty.
Secondly, he disallowed a clear second and assumably a winning goal scored by Burkina Faso for reasons known to himself. Before the disallowed goal was scored, there was a physical tussle between the scorer of the disallowed goal and a Ghanaian defender, the major victim of which was a Burkinabe who worked hard to overcome it and succeeded to win impediment against him and scored.
To prove that the tussle had nothing to do with the disallowing of the goal, when the two players were in the tussle, the referee would blow the whistle there and then but he never did that waiting for the end results. It is certain that if that ball went wide, the referee would signal for a goal kick. Indeed, that was a clear goal.
Thirdly, he denied Burkina Faso a clear penalty after their deadly striker, Jonathan Pitroipa was fouled in a penalty box. Contact against him was clearly visible but the referee blew the whistle and awarded a free kick to Ghana while he was supposed to award a penalty to Burkina Faso ! In short, that referee awarded a penalty to Ghana which was not actually a penalty and did not award a penalty to Burkina Faso which actually was a penalty!
Fourthly, he showed a second yellow card (red) to Pitroipa for what was interpreted as simulation connected to the third erroneous decision above. If he decided to help Ghana by not awarding a penalty against them, that was enough but by flashing a red card to a dependable player of Burkina Faso, he meant to punish them more than twice for the same incident; denying them a penalty, reducing their one player on the pitch. The player sent off was an ace attacker and he will not take part in the final match. Indeed, Pitroipa did not deserve any punishment. (Later CAF allowed him to play in the final)
The referee has justifiably been banned from officiating. Fortunately, despite his bias against Burkina Faso , they were the ones who won the match through post-match penalties. If they were defeated, punishment to him would not be of any use to them as it would not reverse the results.
Our African referees should perform their duty well, proportional to our level of soccer which is very good. To have good players and poor referees is tantamount to putting on a very nice shirt, neck tie, coat (good players), ragged trousers and worn out sandals (poor referees). Can one say that person is smart or shabby? That is how African soccer is; very talented players on the one hand and very poor referees on the other hand.
In order for the two to be compatible with each other, our referees should minimize human errors and avoid being controlled by personal whims as done by that banned referee, Jdidi Slim. We should all realize the fact that our AFCON tournament, being big as it is, it is watched by the whole world and analysed for our stadia, our time keeping, our players and our referees. Let us make positive changes in all aspects connected to African soccer.