Mbeki call lifted Molefe

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

ACCRA - Top South African assistant referee Enock Molefe has described getting a congratulatory message from President Thabo Mbeki ahead of Sunday's 26th Africa Cup of Nations final between Cameroon and eventual winners Egypt as incredible.

Mbeki called the popular teacher from Tshoseletso Secondary School in Mangaung, Free State, on Sunday morning to congratulate him for hoisting the South African flag high at the continental soccer spectacle.

"It was a great feeling to get a call from the president of the country. We spoke for about four minutes before he asked me to excuse him so that I can have enough time to focus on the final. I thought I was the one who should have excused myself because our president is a busy man," said Molefe yesterday.

"I must confess that it was unusual because we know it to be happening to Bafana Bafana and other national teams when they are in the finals of major competitions. That telephone call gave me more energy to do well in the final.

"I will cherish this tournament for a long time. The president said the country was proud of us [Molefe and referee Jerome Damon]. Personally, I'm very happy to have handled the final in this tournament where the standard was high.

"It is a great achievement, considering that Jerome and I were in the semifinals in the previous tournament in Egypt in 2006. It is also good for the development of soccer in South Africa in as far as refereeing is concerned that we were also represented in the final," said Molefe.

"We have worked hard to be where we are. I know many people back home think we should automatically have referees and assistant referees in the 2010 World Cup because we are hosting.

"It does not work like that in Fifa."