Ref­er­ees need to have guts and a back­bone

CityPress - - Sport - Er­rol Sweeney [email protected]­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @dr_er­rol

Hav­ing been in­volved in ref­er­ee­ing since 1970, I think I can speak with some au­thor­ity on the sub­ject. I’m talk­ing about match con­trol and the abil­ity to make those dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions, and bug­ger the con­se­quences.

I re­cently watched a woman ref­eree from Nige­ria in the CAF Africa Women’s Cup of Na­tions. If I tell you that she had all that is re­quired to be one of the best, I’m def­i­nitely not ly­ing. Her po­si­tion­ing was a lit­tle sus­pect, but noth­ing that can’t be cured with a lit­tle coach­ing and men­tor­ing.

Ndidi Madu gave an out­stand­ing dis­play of courage, for­ti­tude and per­sonal strength, the likes of which I haven’t wit­nessed for a long time.

This was in the quar­ter­fi­nal match be­tween Al­ge­ria and Mali. The game ended 3-2 in favour of Mali, and three of the five goals scored in the match were penal­ties.

This woman had no fear, and went about her job with pro­fes­sion­al­ism and de­ter­mi­na­tion. Her abil­ity to in­ter­pret the laws of the game was re­fresh­ing and she gave an ex­am­ple of of­fi­ci­at­ing that oth­ers would and should be proud of.

Just re­flect on this.

The score is 2-all and the game is in the 92nd minute. There’s one minute left of the three added on and, al­though ev­ery­one is gear­ing up for a penalty shoot-out, she awards a penalty to Mali. The spot kick is scored and Mali pro­gressed to the semi­fi­nal.

All penal­ties were jus­ti­fied and how she spot­ted the shirt pulling for the in­fringe­ment in ad­di­tional time, I’ll never know. But spot it she did and had no hes­i­ta­tion in award­ing the penalty.

In an ar­ti­cle I wrote some time ago for an­other me­dia out­let, I em­pha­sised that a penalty kick is the same as a di­rect free kick out­side the penalty area.

Too many times I see ref­er­ees hide be­hind the ex­cuse that they didn’t see the in­ci­dent or were un­sighted – or some other lame ex­cuse – for fear of up­set­ting a cer­tain team, coach or sup­port­ers. This, to me, is ref­er­ee­ing cow­ardice and if they were soldiers, they would be court-mar­tialled and shot.

Match of­fi­cials like that we do not need. These guys should go and take up some other sport that is less de­mand­ing and stress­ful.

In fair­ness to our woman coun­ter­parts, they are a lot more brave when it comes to award­ing the ul­ti­mate sanc­tion (penalty) and they are also not scared to is­sue yellow or red cards. Our male of­fi­cials could learn a les­son or two from them.

It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that a di­rect free kick out­side the penalty area is a penalty kick in­side – but I reg­u­larly wit­ness the men in black (never the women – they ap­ply the laws cor­rectly) shy­ing away from do­ing what they get paid to do.

For ex­am­ple, let’s say there are 15 di­rect free kicks per team in a game. If those di­rect free kick in­ci­dents hap­pened in­side the penalty area, how many male ref­er­ees would award 15 penal­ties? Well, let me tell you – prob­a­bly one. Who would that one be? Me.

Some time ago, South African ref­eree Vic­tor Gomes awarded five penal­ties in a game be­tween Ajax Cape Town and Mamelodi Sun­downs.

There was an up­roar, but tele­vi­sion re­plays proved that Gomes was cor­rect. Even Sun­downs coach Pitso Mosi­mane sar­cas­ti­cally cas­ti­gated Gomes, call­ing him “the man of the match”.

He also fell un­der cosh for award­ing 11 penal­ties in four games.

Again, there was an up­roar. Why, I ask? What’s the prob­lem?

I’ll tell you the prob­lem – some ref­er­ees are not do­ing their job, the job they get paid to do, for fear of a back­lash from play­ers, coaches, clubs and sup­port­ers.

If that is the case – and I’m talk­ing to those ref­er­ees who in­dulge in this cow­ardice – get out of the game and take up golf, ten­nis or some less stress­ful sport­ing ac­tiv­ity be­cause, one thing is for sure, you ain’t suited to this sport. Happy whistling!

PHOTO: MUZI NTOMBELA / BACK­PAGEPIX

GOOD CALL Ref­eree Ndidi Madu

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