The Africa Cup Of Nations (AFCON) comes to an end today but without controversies. This time around, it is the middle men (referees) who tried to steal the limelight with some dubious officiating, forcing the Confederation of African Football (Caf) to suspend Egyptian referee Grisha Ghead and Slim Jdidi from Tunisia with immediate effect and sending them packing from the tournament.
Ghead was the first one to be sent home on January 29 after he awarded defending champions Zambia a controversial penalty towards the end in a game which ended in a 1-1 stalemate.
But it is the officiating of Jdidi in the semi-final clash between Burkina Faso and Ghana at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Wednesday night which left most people around the continent fuming.
First, Jdidi awarded Ghana a soft penalty and went on to deny their opponents a clear goal which could have seen the match not going to penalties. While the Burkinabe Stallions won 3-2 on post-match penalties, the decision not to award them a penalty and, instead, sending off their key man, Jonathan Pitroipa, left many people speechless. The kind of refereeing on the night showed that the Tunisian referee wanted Ghana to meet Nigeria in the final.
Burkina Faso wrote a letter of protest to Caf immediately after the game.
“CAF was not happy with the standard of refereeing in the match. We know they can make mistakes but we expected a better level of refereeing. They are graded on each performance and based on the marks, the referee (Jdidi) from Tunisia is now suspended for a period of time still to be determined,” said Caf general secretary, Hicham El Amrani, at a media briefing on Thursday.
Some football commentators have accused Caf for the poor officiating at the tournament. They pointed out that it is the continental body which selects the referees to the tournament. But the main question is whether referees can decide the outcome of games?
“It is frustrating that referees can decide the outcome of the game and when you’re on the receiving end, it’s more painful. It makes one wonder how such a poor referee was chosen to officiate at the tournament. That referee wanted Burkina Faso not to reach the final,” said BMC head coach, Daniel Nare.
Nhare added that even in local football there are some middle men who always want to see certain teams winning.
“I always fight with referees because of their poor decisions which at times swing games into the other team’s favour. Right now, I’m on suspension after being sent off against Nico for something I don’t know,” Nare added.
Gabz fm sports reporter, Mojaki Monnakgotla, said referees are supposed to be neutral players who make important decisions during a game. But he pointed out that it becomes a problem when they take decisions which leave everyone disappointed. “There is no doubt that most people would have liked to see a final between Nigeria and Ghana. But Ghana should win on merit not in a situation where a referee decides on their behalf. It was disappointing,” said Monnakgotla.
Mochudi Centre Chiefs’ spokesperson Clifford Mogomotsi said that the decisions which were taken by the Tunisian referee on the night shocked him. He added that CAF should do a better job when appointing referees for such tournaments in the future. “Some referees are part and parcel of the match-fixing scandal which has hit the footballing world. It is not a surprise to see that man handling the game in that manner. We’ve a referee like Joshua Bondo who officiates in CAF Champions League games every year but we never hear bad stories about him. Why not consider him for such tournaments. I think CAF have only themselves to blame,” said Mogomotsi.