Johannesburg - My late dad, Lord rest him, used to tell me there were three professions we had to be able to trust – the police, medical staff and the clergy.
Who do we run to for protection? The police. Who do we go to when we’re ill? The doctor. Who do we go to when we, or a family member, are coming to the end of our life? A priest, of course.
I would like to add one more to that list and suggest match officials. Referees, assistant referees and fourth officials.
These are the people who we look to for fairness, transparency and honesty.
It has recently come to light that a referee from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia was found to be involved in an attempt to fix a match just a month before he was due to fly to Russia for this year’s World Cup.
It has been reported that 32-year-old Fahad Al Mirdasi confessed to offering to fix the Kings Cup final on behalf of the Al-Ittihad club. It’s alleged he made an approach to the club’s chief, Hamad Al-Senai, who immediately handed over the WhatsApp messages to Saudi Arabian Football Federation officials, who in turn alerted the relevant government authorities.
The referee was immediately taken into police custody, where he confessed to soliciting the corrupt payment.
There hasn’t been any mention of the amount involved, but it has destroyed the career of this young official and has brought shame and disgrace on himself and his country, as well as on refereeing in general.
Former English Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg, who is head of the Saudi Arabia referee department, was brought in to officiate the match.
Al Mirdasi has been on the Fifa elite panel of referees since 2011 and officiated at last year’s Confederation Cup in Russia.
I have absolutely no sympathy for the referee or anyone involved in such despicable and disgusting behaviour. A bent referee is like a crooked cop.
They should face the most severe punishment because they are in a position of trust and dependency, and have to be seen to be above all manner of illegal approaches and temptation.
It’s not that long ago that Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey was also banned for life for awarding a penalty to South Africa in their World Cup qualifier against Senegal.
Replays clearly showed the ball struck the player’s knee, then dropped to the ground and was nowhere near the player’s hand.
The teams were subsequently ordered by Fifa to replay the game. Senegal won 2–1 and progressed to Moscow.
With so much television exposure in the modern game, and with as many as 30 cameras located all around the ground for big games, I find it difficult to understand how a referee or an assistant could believe they could get away with such a decision as Lamptey’s.
Likewise with social media now part of our lives, I’m flabbergasted when trying to come to terms with the actions of Al Mirdasi.
There will be many theories on his motivation and the fact that he may have thought there might be others like him who would also indulge in such corrupt practices.
At this stage, suffice to say there are still some honest people in the game, and many congratulations to the club official who took the correct and only course of action by reporting the incident to the authorities.
I always use the term “if you sell your honesty, you sell your soul; if you sell your soul then you have nothing left”.
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