Referees need to have guts and a backbone
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!
GOOD CALL Referee Ndidi Madu