Johannesburg - Many South African football followers will be singing Hallelujah today.
Their source of joy will be two-pronged.
While some will be celebrating the end of the 31st Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, they will also be singing their lungs out in reverence to the fact that the domestic league, Absa Premiership, will finally come out of its siesta on Tuesday.
To be honest, some – if not many – followers of domestic soccer did not care much for what was happening in the tiny west African country.
And no one can blame those who did not care a hoot, seeing that even the 1.6 million charges of President Ali Bongo Ondimba couldn’t be bothered, failing to fill up the stadiums even when their own national team, known as Les Panthères (The Panthers) or Les Brésiliens (The Brazilians), played.
The latter moniker is quite a fascinating sobriquet seeing that the only common denominator between Gabonese football and that of the five-time World Champions is their playing kit. And the similarities end there.
However, I digress. Again!
Failed the test
While there is jubilation that we are now going to be bleary-eyed from watching midweek night soccer on the telly, there is the small matter of the referees.
It was quite disturbing to hear that a total of 26 match officials recently failed their fitness tests.
This is a crisis of humongous proportions, given that it will reduce the pool of officials going into the final stretch of the season.
More disturbing – as reported in City Press – was the fact that two of the officials who failed the test, were on the international panel, meaning they are Fifa-accredited referees.
This news is disturbing on a number of fronts and needs serious attention. It is an indication that those who failed do not take their jobs seriously.
We have written reams and reams of copy about ill-disciplined players.
But when you have people, who are supposed to instill rules and ensure they are followed to the letter on the pitch, failing tests, it takes the meaning of ill-discipline to a another level.
It is pretty obvious that those who failed overindulged during the festive season and totally forgot who they were and what their duties were.
Two: Safa needs to not only take a dim view of this misconduct but must severely punish the culprits.
If the body doesn’t do that, it will give the impression that it is a lame duck that is taken for granted and has failed in its duties.
Safa needs a strong individual to head this crucial unit of our football.
Someone who will command respect from the match officials reporting to him.
This might just be an indication that it is high time that Safa considered giving the referees – those who handle Absa Premiership and NFD matches – over to their Special Member, the Premier Soccer League (PSL).
The latter has been asking for quite some time to be given the opportunity to professionalise the whistle-men’s fraternity.
The PSL coffers are jingling with money, unlike the mother body that has not attracted any massive and significant sponsorship in some while now.
The league has just celebrated a hugely successful 10-year partnership with SuperSport amid speculation that the pair had agreed on a multibillion-rand extension.
Speculation is that the implementation of that deal would see the 16 PSL clubs smiling all the way to the bank to cash in double the R1.5 million monthly grants they are currently getting.
Given this background and the state in which South African refereeing has been for years now, maybe, just maybe, it is time Safa really considered this option.
It is no use hanging on to an asset that you are unable to handle or utilise properly.
We do need progressive minds and fresh ideas for our football to grow.
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