The Africa Cup of Nations is a soccer show. It is a rendez-vous to showcase talent, cultural diversity and patriotism.
Every two years, the best National squads in Africa come together under the auspices of the African Football Confederation (CAF) to commune. It is thanks to CAF that football has made, and is still making progress on the continent. But despite these efforts, the fifty-six-years old soccer jamboree is being marred by referees (The Men in Black). For the past ten years or more, never has any edition come and gone without fans, sports gurus and media men crying foul.
At the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations where CAF did select and trained 39 referees and match officials prior to the tournament, over half a dozen of them have been under criticism for poor handling of matches. Out of the many poor decisions taken by some of the referees, the most outstanding of them were the controversial penalty awarded to current cup holders Zambia by Egyptian referee, Ghead Grisha who officiated the Group C encounter pitting the Chipolopolo to the Super Eagles. The late penalty, four minutes from time enabled the champions to draw level in the game at Mbombela Stadium. A top official of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) confirmed on Sunday that the 36-year old referee, who became an international referee in 2008, will no longer take part in the on-going championship in South Africa.
Second most highly controversial decision which has sparked worldwide condemnation came during the Ghana versus Burkina Faso encounter handled by Slim Jdidi from Tunisia. Apart from awarding Ghana an imaginary penalty and favouring the Ghanaians throughout the encounter, the Tunisian official did not only deprived Burkina Faso of a glaring penalty, but unjustly sent off their best attacker, Jonathan Pitroipa. His controversial decisions have not only led to his suspension, but prompted an emergency CAF disciplinary committee meeting today in Johannesburg to iron out things before the situation goes off hand.
It is true that the job of a football referee may not always be easy, but those called up to handle such challenging task must bear in mind the consequences of the scandals that their wrong doing and unjust decisions can cause.