‘I am happy with the performances,’ says Safa referees boss Ebrahim

Mahlatse Mphahlele Sports reporter
Cape Town Spurs coach Ernst Middendorp argues with a referee during their DStv Premiership match against Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium.
Cape Town Spurs coach Ernst Middendorp argues with a referee during their DStv Premiership match against Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

South African Football Association (Safa) head of referees Abdul Ebrahim has defended recent much-criticised performances by DStv Premiership match officials but admits there is room for improvement. 

Referees have been in the spotlight with some decisions questioned. Another talking point on Monday night was a confusing officiating moment when Gabadinho Mhango's late equaliser for Moroka Swallows against Mamelodi Sundowns was initially overruled then allowed.

There has been debate as to whether Mhango was involved in play in the 2-2 draw at Dobsonville Stadium when he was metres behind Sundowns' last man to a long ball, and then, as referee Jelly Chavani ruled, was played onside by a misplaced header by Brazilians centreback Divine Lunga.

Downs coach Rulani Mokwena criticised the decision.

Former referee Ebrahim admitted officials are human beings who will continue to make mistakes.

“I am happy with the performances of all match officials; they make mistakes but we deal with those mistakes.

“It doesn’t mean if someone makes a mistake, all of a sudden they are a poor person. It doesn’t mean if two referees make a mistake, refereeing is all of a sudden poor.

“Errors have been happening and our review committee deals with them. This is the norm every season — when something is wrong we try our best to fix it,” he said. 

Last week Cape Town Spurs coach Ernst Middendorp seemed to have a legitimate complaint when a decisive penalty was awarded against his team in a 1-0 defeat to Sundowns when the offending challenge occurred outside the box. AmaZulu coach Pablo Franco Martin was incensed by an apparent soft penalty against his team in Usuthu's 4-2 Nedbank Cup quarterfinal defeat against Orlando Pirates on Saturday.

Ebrahim, though, said it is disappointing that the public often criticises officials because they do not fully understand Fifa rules. 

“We are concerned but it doesn’t mean mistakes are happening regularly, but people are saying mistakes are happening. Sometimes when we [Safa's review committee] analyse we get something different to what people are assuming. 

“It is disappointing because the public in South Africa don't know the Laws of the Game, how they are applied and how they should be understood. The first thing they jump to is the error, 'the referee made a mistake and it cost us the game'. 

“There is nothing we can do about that because it is people’s right to say whatever they want to and when they want to say it. It is important when they [decisions] get to our review committee they come up with the necessary recommendations and decisions.”

Ebrahim said Safa has a few referees placed in rehabilitation. 

“When referees make mistakes and it is picked up by the assessor and review committee they make recommendations and we try to put remedial action in place.

“We have rehabilitation programmes in place and we have put referees on those programmes on a regular basis. Besides that we try our best to motivate match officials with all the negative media reports.

“We have mechanisms in place and we hope whatever we teach match officials stands them in good stead to officiate any game. 

“I am not going to mention names but we have picked up errors, we have one or two match officials Safa has on rehabilitation and our programmes are ongoing. We don’t sit back, see an error and do nothing about it. 

“People must understand refereeing is a human thing and people are going to make mistakes. We have been calling for VAR [video assistant referees] and we hope we can have it in the country sooner rather than later,” he said. 

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