TOP South African referee Jerome Damon will handle the all-important Africa Cup of Nations match between Ivory Coast and Ghana in Angola today.
This will be the Cape Town school- teacher's first appearance in the biennial spectacle as a referee after featuring as a fourth official on his debut in the tournament. Damon was the fourth official when Chipolopolo of Zambia played to a credible 1-all draw against Tunisia's Carthage Eagles on Wednesday night.
Damon told Sowetan he was honoured to have been assigned to today's game: "We are here to hoist the South African flag high. In 2008 we had two referees, myself and Enoch Molefe. We went all the way until the last day. I did the third-place playoff match, Molefe was in the final match.
"I'm humbled to handle this game - it's a real honour to be entrusted with such a big responsibility," he said.
Damon is one of the three local referees on duty in Angola. The others are referee Daniel Bennett and assistant referee Molefe.
Bennett was the first South African to officiate in this tournament on Wednesday when Gabon caused a major upset by defeating tournament favourites Cameroon.
Molefe handled last night's match between Algeria and Mali. He and Damon are on the 2010 Fifa World Cup provisional panel of referees.
Meanwhile, Football Association of Zambia president Kalusha Bwalya is still confident Chipolopolo will reach their first knockout stages since 1996 in South Africa.
"I thought we deserved to win, but a draw is not bad. We are ready for Cameroon on Sunday," he said yesterday.
Captain Christopher Katongo said: "We played well but regret not maintaining our lead. We should have won, but we let it slip."