11 February 2013

Africa: Referees Almost Spoil Afcon 2013 Glamour


The just ended African Cup of Nations 2013 in South Africa not only produced some brilliant displays on the pitch but also produced some of the worst displays by the match officials.

The most controversial display by the men in yellow (referees) was in the Semi-Final match between Burkina Faso and Ghana in which Tunisian referee Slim Jdedi was the center of attention.

Jdedi's performance overshadowed what was a dedicated performance from the two West African nations.

He awarded Ghana a soft penalty, denied Burkina Faso two far more obvious penalties and ruled out what appeared to be a legitimate Burkina Faso goal. Jdedi's most contentious decision in the match came three minutes from the end of extra time when he showed Burkinabe winger Jonathan Pitroipa a second yellow card and sent him off for diving in the penalty area.

Television replays clearly showed that Pitroipa was fouled in the incident and that Jdedi had a clear view of the foul but decided to instead send off the player.

Burkina Faso however went on to win the match 3-2 on penalties after it had finished 1-1 following extra time.

Other refereeing shortcomings at the tournament included Ghana's goalkeeper receiving a yellow card instead of red for a handball outside his area in what was a blatant professional foul against Mali.

South African referee Daniel Bennett booked the wrong player, awarded two soft penalties and denied another obvious spot kick when Togo met Tunisia in Nelspruit.

Egyptian referee Gehad Grisha awarded a highly controversial penalty to Zambia in the last minute of their group match against Nigeria in which Zambia's Kennedy Mweene leveled matters for the Chipolopolo. CAF later sent the referee packing for his performance.

However, Issa Hayatou, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) whereas admitting the refereeing flaws at the continental showpiece said that it should not take the glee from an overall improvement in the standard of officiating.

"Overall we are satisfied but we experienced some mistakes with the referees especially at the semifinal between Ghana and Burkina Faso, and there were other errors too...also at the Tunisia v Togo match," he told a media round-table meeting last Friday.

CAF also took the unusual step of announcing that the Tunisian referee Slim Jdedi had been suspended following his handling of that semifinal match.

The CAF supremo also announced that the red card issued to the Burkinabe player was rescinded and that Pitroipa was available for selection in the final which was played yesterday (Sunday).

He said that the Tunisian referee admitted his error in his report to the CAF Secretary General.

"Everyone realised that this referee did not officiate well. They've told me the referee has sent a letter saying he got it wrong," Hayatou said on Friday.

In the wake of the poor referee's performance in the 2013 Africa Nations Cup semi-final match between Burkina Faso and Ghana, Africa seems to have far bigger challenges in as far as development in the sport is concerned.

Some theories suggest that CAF wants big names at the finals of the continental competitions thus doing everything to deny the small sides victory over the so called African soccer powers.

It also partly explains why African countries don't perform well at the World Cup.

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