The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Whatever Happened to the Men in Black!

Seeing that some Ghana players were in tears following their failure to qualify for the finals of the 2013 Africa Nations Cup, it left me flabbergasted, honestly.

Considering the extent to which they have benefited from refereeing decisions to reach the semi-finals, any disappointment in that regard only shows how ungrateful the Black Stars are. Funny as it may sound, whether it was on purpose or by coincidence, the referees have played a telling role in helping Ghana on their way.

Which, in essence, has left me wondering what has happened to the men in black (yellow, blue or whatever.....) that officiate the football matches. One mistake can always be taken lightly and swept under the carpet but there hasn't been a Nations Cup in the years gone by that has been as controversial as this one. All because of poor referees' decisions.

And top of the list is Slim Jedidi of Tunisia. Whatever was at the back of this man's mind, who metaphorically is one of the "men in black" although he put on a blue shirt and black shorts to officiate the Ghana/Burkina Faso semi-final is beyond me. The rate at which he made wrong calls in that game specifically against Burkina Faso was troubling.

Late as it may be in the tournament, Caf need to show the world that they have noted this damning problem and that they need to arrest it as soon as now. Surely a black spot has been left on this championship even from referees that one would ordinarily be rating so highly. A case in point is South Africa's Daniel Bennett who officiated the Togo/Tunisia clash in the group stages; Badara Diatta from Senegal and even Noumandiez Doué from Ivory Coast.

These are highly-rated referees but for some reason they have courted more controversy than one would have imagined. Interestingly, most poor refereeing decisions have followed Ghana until their bubble burst against Burkina Faso. Diatta ruled out Niger's would-be equaliser to the dismay of many while Doué chose to simply yellow-card Ghana's goalkeeper Fatawu Dauda instead of sending him off when he handled the ball deliberately from outside the penalty area.

In fact Dauda's crime was a premeditation to stop Mali's Seydou Keita from reaching the ball, which if he had, would have seen him score for the Malians. I think enough has been said. It is time for Caf to act lest we will soon believe what is said regarding Caf and its referees. Apparently for many of these referees to be on the list at such major tournaments, they have got to have been taking back some little token of appreciation to the referees' selectors committee.

And because of that reason, we never see any of the referees who officiate badly getting reprimanded on a consistent level. This could be by design by the way. You see, if the football governing body in Africa (Caf) is indifferent to such things that put African football into disrepute, then rest your case and end any flickering hopes you might have had.

Going by what we see transpiring in most qualifiers on the African continent, a number of African countries tend to ride on biased refereeing. And no matter how much of that is highlighted, Caf turns a deaf ear. Now, because that problem hasn't been addressed, it has come back full circle into our faces. For the rest of the world watching the Nations Cup, they must be shaking their heads wondering how low the quality of refereeing in Africa has become.

We should be embarrassed that this has happened at the biggest stage of African football. Only a cleanup of Caf will end this vice. That said, it is with great disappointment also that Uganda has had no referee at this Nations Cup.

In fact there has been none at the last two editions. Could it be that ours are even worse than those blundering at the Nations Cup? If that is the case, we are finished.

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