REFEREES MUST BE UP TO THE TASK …to guarantee a crisis-free league

I have been very empathetic to the course of referees not only because one is my neighbor but also because I reckon it is one of the difficult jobs in sports. Serving as an arbitrator when one has the luxury of referring to precedents and returning later to pronounce verdict is RELATIVELY less demanding to the referee’s role in making up his mind on the spur of the heated moment on the field. I must admit also that the individual regimen of training this neighbor of mine puts in almost everyday just for a 90-minute or sometimes a 120-minute showdown on the field is enough to tell me, if no one else even recognizes, the difficulty of their(referees’) task. It is often the case that football fans do not take cognizance of the referee when there is flow in play and only roars at him (or her) when they hear the sound of his (or her) whistle against their wish. Players alike go to the extent of insulting referees when they feel decisions should have come their favour.

The 2012/2013 Ghana Premier League began last weekend and the average performance of the knights of the whistle was impressive. I heard a Chief Executive Officer of a club concede on radio, after his team lost at home, that the referee was fair and that he would award him 90% overall. Thumbs up to the CEO! I would not have put my fingers on the keyboard to type this piece if I had not heard analysts on radio commending the performance of a referee I thought did not live up to scratch. I just felt it was proper to apply the carrot-and-the-stick approach to refereeing and those who performed poorly should be made aware in order to let them perform better and that mere propaganda will not do the league any good.

Asante Kotoko-Amidaus match

The Kumasi Asante Kotoko-Amidaus Professional match was shown live on television and for any body to say the man in the centre of affairs performed well will definitely be deceiving and undermining the public and viewers respectively. Charles Nii Tagoe performed below average in my estimation.

First of all, I was flabbergasted to see how the referee allowed Yahaya Mohammed, skipper of Amidaus Professionals to appear with such an arm band on the pitch. Inasmuch as it is the responsibility of the kits manager of the club to see to the proper accessories on players, it behoves on referees as well to make sure the kits are suitable for the game. That is why the pre-match conference is vital. But since a referee cannot guarantee what a player may carry with him (or her) onto the field, after a pre-match conference, it is important to conduct a cursory check. It is part of the routine for referees. It is just like a referee doing the mandatory count of the number of players on the field before each half. Indeed in the modern game, a referee also makes sure accessories such as finger rings and ear rings are not brought onto the field. Therefore, it was hard for me to swallow how Referee Charles Nii Tagoe allowed Yahaya Mohammed to last about 75min on the field with such an arm band demeaning of the league. Worse of all, when he was being subbed, Mohammed untied that swatch and tied it to the arm of Roger Adongo, who in turn tied it to the arm of substitute Isaac Kommietey when Adongo was coming out of the field. Even if referee Tagoe did not see this when the captains exchanged pennants before the game, he should have noted when they were being subbed. Though the responsibility of wearing a proper arm band may lie within the ambits of the Premier League Board, I guess it is also within referees’ full rights to insist that the proper arm band is worn by captains. It is as important as insisting an ambulance is parked within a stadium before a game.

Ghanaian referees must respect their badge

Secondly, I was struck at the negligence of referee Tagoe to some infringements in the game. Yahaya Mohammed was left unpunished after an intentional challenge on an opponent with his right foot. Though both players went in for an aerial tackle, Mohammed, after clearing the ball with his left foot, thrust his right straight into the trunk of Kofi Nti Boakyi. He was not even cautioned by the referee. Disappointing! Another case was when Kwabena Adusei was only yellow carded after he had blocked a goal scoring chance for an Amidaus striker. He was then the last man. At that point I thought a straight red card was as appropriate as the yellow card shown. The most disgusting was when referee Nii Tagoe had to show only the yellow card to Kotoko goalkeeper Isaac Amoako in a clear case of ‘last-man-in-defence.’ Amoako came out of his penalty area and handled the ball only to get away with a yellow card. I thought it should have been a straight red card! Worse still, referee Tagoe gave no indication that that infringement should be an indirect kick. Indeed, if a goalie handles a ball outside the penalty area it is adjudged an indirect rather than a free kick. I was waiting for Nii Tagoe to raise his left arm to indicate as such but he kept it to his trunk. What could be his decision if Yahaya Mohammed’s straight shot had gone into the net?

Even if I give the centre referee the benefit of the doubt, what were the assistant referees doing. Were they also not privy to this law in the game? Or they did not have any means to communicate with the centre referee? Well, I may waive it then simply because the PLB came out that communication devices for referees will be introduced to facilitate officiating starting the 2012/2013 season. The devices were conspicuously absent! But the issue of devices aside, officiating did not go well in my estimation. No wonder a ball boy threw a ball onto the pitch when one had not even gone out of play. I would have been very surprised if referee Tagoe had allowed play to continue during that period. But he was perfectly up to the task at that point as he rushed to the ball boy to issue some stern warnings. It was perfectly in order.

This is just the start of the league but corrective measures must begin to be put in place so that at least for once, Ghana can have a crisis-free league. It begins with referees.

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