Fri Oct 21 20:38:23 CAT 2016

Refs' protest may hide deeper issues

By unknown | Mar 05, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

A protest by 17 livid soccer referees that led to a match being postponed in Limpopo has naturally set tongues wagging.

It is thus football officials and fans alike that are scratching their heads trying to remember when such an "industrial action" was ever recorded on a playing field.

We know of incidents where teams would stage a sit-in protesting against a penalty awarded against them. There would also be an odd threat by referees, particularly those handling matches in professional leagues, that they were not well paid.

But to have referees actually storming the pitch, we just don't have such incidents in our records, at least since the formation of the South African Football Association in 1991 or in the National Soccer League - the constitutional organisation that runs the Premier Soccer League (PSL) - which came to being in 1985.

This seems a first of sorts by referees. And I say this at the risk of possibly being told that such an action has long being recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records .

Records aside, and much as Safa can say this matter has brought the game of football and their sponsors into disrepute, we also need to ask why it really happened.

Granted, no concrete evidence has so far been put on the table or tested.

Let us therefore enjoy our freedom to speculate.

The referees who engaged in that protest don't strike me as some attention seekers who just chose to be childish on that particular afternoon.

Safa needs to dig much deeper than just punishing them.

Match-fixing is, by the way, some kind of a norm in the junior leagues, as we have been constantly told, but, as usual, with no proof provided.

Also in what sometimes seems to be a case of sour grapes, clubs that fail either to get into the Third Division (SAB Regional League) and/or the Second Division (Vodacom Promotional League) always cry foul about corruption.

It is for this reason they say people would prefer not to start in, for example, the Upington Fooball Association but instead rather buy the status of some Mahwelereng Crocodile Tears FC who campaign in the National First Division with the hope of ending up in the multi-million rand-sponsored and envied PSL.

Now back to the protest that took place at Kgapane in Tzaneen.

Sowetan has been told that the referees were against seeing a colleague from the Safa Mopani region being appointed to handle the game between Giyani's Limpopo United and Dundee United.

According to the protesters, the match was to have been handled by neutral officials, as it later happened.

It is clear that Mopani referees don't trust each other. We are seemingly being warned that "if you want fair play (as Fifa advocates) don't come to us". And this must be a concern.

Safa, particularly Kirsten Nematandani, their referees' committee chairperson, would be wrong to let the Mopani region handle the issue of the protest as some kind of domestic matter.

For me, if the complaints by referees are anything to go by, administrators from this region are also suspects. They cannot therefore afford the luxury of being both players and referees (excuse the pun) at the same time.

Comical as it may be, if properly handled this issue could turn out to be a timely whistle-blowing act by the referees.

Your case, Mr Nematandani!


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