Germany 2006: Where are our refs?

My friends, this week you really got at me nice and early. I suppose I should take it as a compliment. I mean, you have obviously realised that if you do not get at me early and I get started then you will have a real challenge doing so once I am in my stride. Anyway, as I was saying before you interrupted me, it is Sunday Sport on Sunday the 21st day of May 2006. I hope I find you well. I wanted to give you this piece of trivia either on the Sunday before or after, but one thing led to another. Better late than never. At two minutes three seconds after one in the morning of Thursday the 4th of May 2006, the time and date was 01:02:03:04/05/06. Please note that this is a one-off. It is gone. Kindly also note where you read it first. A pity you did not get it in time. I must hasten to add though, that, much as I would have wanted to be, I did not discover the phenomenon. I only received the message in my Inbox. Thank you, Sender. I had expressed hope that I find you well. I am still out here in the region of sand, sea, soca and sun. That is as much as I will go with the characteristics of the Caribbean that begin with the letter “s”. I can only repeat that this is a family newspaper, and that this column is a family read. I am in Trinidad, to be precise in Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago. The buzz here is the beautiful game. The Soca Warriors are on their way to Germany and the 2006 Fifa World Cup Soccer tournament. It is their first ever qualification. You should have seen the celebrations! These people love a good show. It is not hyperbole that the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival has been described as “the Greatest Show on Earth.” Now the spectators, masqueraders and revellers of this greatest show are taking their potpourri of vision, sound, rhythm and tangy cuisine to undoubtedly the greatest single sporting show we know this side of heaven. No doubt they will be taking to the streets of Germany to “Play Mas”. Business has reported a significant increase in the sale of televisions, especially of the wide-screen variety. The 27 and 32-inch models are most in demand as those back home prepare to follow the proceedings from the 9th of next month to the 9th of the following month. It will be Showtime! The highlight of the first round action for the locals, which may be all the action their team will be involved in, is the June 15 clash against England. With more than half the Soca Warriors squad plying their trade in the land of Her Majesty, that match reminds us of Senegal-France four years ago. Ah, but for a repeat of that action! And the result, the result, comrades. Talking about television: a bar in the city of Stuttgart has erected ‘ and I use the word advisedly ‘ monitors in its men’s toilets so that patrons do not miss the action. And just to encourage the aim, they have put miniature goals in the urinals. I hear the ladies make reference to Beijing. I understand that there were structural challenges to having the same set-up in the Ladies’. The owners cited lack of space there and the fact that what men do in a public place of their private place ladies do behind closed doors. So, dear ladies, your participation in the tournament will have to be interrupted if you have to answer the call of nature. Participation. That is the word I was looking for all along. Participation. The world soccer governing body has announced the list of referees and assistants who will be in charge at the global showcase in Germany. Where are the Africans? OK, we have the usual suspects ‘ Egypt, Mali and Senegal represented, with the first offering a referee and the other two his assistants. We also have a referee from Benin who will stand with his compatriot and a Rwandese. I turn to the map of the beloved continent and I shade these countries and I see that I have covered the north, the central and a bit of west. Where art thou, my match officials of the south? Do your whistles not blow loud enough for the lofty stadia of the world? Are you unable to interpret rules and regulations outside the region that you apply weekly here? Are you unable to ensure adherence to the rule and the letter of the law when the world plays? If the problem is our standard then surely that can be corrected. It was reported elsewhere in this newspaper the other day that retired soccer referees and instructors from the region had a weeklong workshop in the Namibian capital, Windhoek. The national soccer associations of Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, the Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the hosts were represented at the workshop. Other than South Africa and Seychelles, all the other countries sent two officials. May be we need more of such courses. I wonder what the regional soccer bosses think of the situation. I mean, if I was in charge of the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) I would be worried that my region has no one on the active officiating list for Germany 2006. For now, if Joe Public wants consolation, he will have to look at the “Standby” list. Ah, referee: Jerome Damon ‘ South Africa. Assistants: Enock Molefe ‘ South Africa and Justice Yeboah ‘ Ghana. Finish. Kaput. I suppose the locals here will say to me that the Caribbean only has one referee, from Jamaica, and his compatriot and someone from here as assistants. My answer is that this is already one more than us! My answer is what is the proportion? Check the islands ‘ a handful, and one with a handful of citizens and another a quarter million and another just three-quarter million and so on. Ditto southern Africa. So, comrades, as we wait for the global soccer showcase to begin, I need to know where we are coming short with our officiating. I need answers. I need resolutions and I need their implementation. I need all this as soon as possible. I need all this certainly before the year 2010. I need this before then, because in that year the soccer world will be at our doorstep. Will our referees then be participating in the greatest single-discipline sports show on earth from the terraces?

May 2006
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