Referee denies Safa claim they're unfit for games

Referee Thando Ndzandzeka wears the controversial OUTsurance kit during the Carling Black Label match between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. /Veli Nhlapo
Referee Thando Ndzandzeka wears the controversial OUTsurance kit during the Carling Black Label match between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. /Veli Nhlapo

A top referee has dismissed claims by his employers, the South African Football Association (Safa), that match officials are unfit and thus not ready for the restart of the Premier Soccer League season.

The referee, speaking on condition to Sowetan, doesn't identify him because match officials are not allowed to conduct media interviews, said he was puzzled by Safa's stance on the restart, reasoning most refs could officiate immediately after passing the Covid-19 test.

"We have never stopped training since lockdown," he said. "If they [Safa] say we are not ready, then I don't know.

"The only thing that is left is testing for Covid-19. I don't know why they are delaying because we have been training. We did our fitness test in January so if you want us to do another fitness test, the only thing they can do maybe is to check if we can still run. But we were given a programme which we have been following every day."

This is in contrast to Safa's statement on Tuesday, in which it reasoned the PSL season could not resume this weekend because match officials required fitness tests and thus will only be available in the first week of August.

The referee said they don't need two weeks to prove their fitness as they did their test in January.

"When you say referees are not ready, did you give them a programme? The answer is yes. If they say no then they will be lying because we have proof of that programme. What's outstanding now is the date for testing."

But Safa spokesperson Dominic Chimhavi said it is a requirement from Fifa that refs need to be tested if they were inactive for a month or so.

"Referees who go to the media and say they are ready are fooling the nation and themselves," Chimhavi responded.

"Every referee who has been inactive for more than a month has to go through a mandatory two-week fitness test. We don't want these people to get injured and you will blame us."

With the testing date not yet decided, there are other concerning issues for the mother body after it failed to give referees a new kit this year.

Fifa's Covid-19 protocol dictates that referees will need to change their kit at half-time.

Chimhavi admitted that the refs' kit saga, which ended at arbitration after the PSL objected to Safa dressing the match officials in gear sponsored by OUTsurance, affected it but said it will give referees kit before the matches resume.

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