Johannesburg - With the World Cup in Russia now complete, soccer enthusiasts are looking forward to Qatar 2022.
The match officials in Russia performed reasonably well, aided by the now famous, or infamous, video assistant referee (VAR) system, whichever way you look at it.
Some referees became too reliant on it, as mentioned previously, while others ignored it, much to their peril.
One particular incident was the deliberate stamping on Neymar Jr near the touch line.
We were then treated to an Oscar-worthy performance by the Brazilian wizard.
The ref should have consulted the VAR, and a red card would have ensued.
That said, the only ref who really impressed me was the Iranian official Alireza Faghani, who went on to take charge of the third-place playoff between England and Belgium.
You have to understand that there’s soccer politics involved in these appointments, which means the best guys don’t always get the “plum” matches.
It was a foregone conclusion that the final ref would not be from Uefa as they had done the 2010 and 2014 finals.
See what I mean about the politics?
But, getting back to domestic matters, the match officials and commissioners for the coming Premier Soccer League season gathered last week in Johannesburg for their annual seminar.
They will be physically and mentally tested to ensure that they are 100% up to date on the latest law changes and interpretations.
The physical side can be strenuous, but it’s based on the Fifa test, and any match official who comes to this seminar unprepared will soon be found out and dismissed.
South African officials have gone from strength to strength in recent years, thanks to people such as Jerome Damon, Carlos Henriques, and Tracey Lovell, the physical instructor.
It shows in the international appointments that come our way.
Our referees and assistant referees are well respected in Africa and further afield.
We only have to look back to the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, when Damon and Enock Molefe represented the country with pride, dignity and honour.
Such was their standing that both men were retained right to the final stages, and it’s my opinion they would have been appointed to the third-place playoff if not for some more soccer politics.
And we must not forget Achmat Salie, who ran the line in the 1998 final between France and Brazil.
A lot of appointments are based on the leagues they referee and the size of the crowds at domestic games.
All that aside, the training and development being exercised at today’s seminars are far beyond what they were when I was officiating in the late 1980s and 1990s, and for that Tenda Masikhwa and the SA Football Association are to be praised.
Referees are sometimes the forgotten “heroes” when it comes to the beautiful game, and the people who run these courses deserve the greatest credit because most are volunteers and give their time to ensure that the men and women in the middle and on the line are as well prepared as possible.
They hardly get a second thought from all and sundry, and it’s still the opinion of many that they are idiots who turn up on a weekend in a black uniform with no knowledge of the laws of the game.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
They are highly trained, motivated and mentored, and anyone who fails the fitness or written test is not allowed to continue.
There was a time when prospective refs turned up for a game in tracksuit bottoms, T-shirts and flip-flops.
Those days are long gone, thankfully.
Our match officials and commissioners now turn up in jackets and ties, and that’s the way it should be.
Belated best of luck to the guys for the coming season.
I hope you all pass with flying colours.
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