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Sports News | Feb 18, 2005

Referees must speak for themselves

Nana Kwaku Agyemang

Referees must speak for themselves!

Recently, I have had the misfortune of being accosted on the streets of Accra by quite a few individuals concerning the observations I have made during the GHALCA Coca Cola Top Four Competition being screened on TV3 about the performance of the Referee and their Assistants. Don't get me wrong, the discussion has been lively and not any way in the least of an intimidating nature.

I suppose even though the discussion has been lively that it has also been frustrating in a sense for me because on occasions it has taken the best part of an hour to explain the Laws of the Game to the discerning listener.

On a good day, some people leave me with an air of satisfaction having had the opportunity to express themselves fluently about my critique of the Referee. However, some folk appear never to be satisfied with the rational of my presentation largely because of club partisan concerns, which is a shame.

Well, on the issue of Ghanaian Referee's I am sorry to say but the fact still remains that the majority of our Referees, do not really understand the Laws of the Game or its actual application. As if this is not bad enough they are also not fit enough to officiate! I know that many of our Referees have not passed their “Coopers Test” but are accepted on the list of available referees for the oncoming season.

You only need to observe their absolute lack of agility (in some cases due to being grossly overweight!) when called upon to sprint or just to keep up with play to notice that something is seriously wrong with their level of fitness.

I have not seen one referee so far with the ability to sprint for thirty yards or being able to keep up with play, which is a basic requirement in order to adequately police the play. I think, they (the Referee's) understand the need to maintain a consistently diagonal path but this is very rarely done. Instead a very narrow path is maintained through the middle of the park with the referee not going far or wide enough to really have a “birds eye view” of what is taking place.

In addition once the Referee crosses the halfway line it is a cardinal sin for him/her to have their back towards the Assistant whose role it is solely to help them. They just will not be able to see if the Assistant is flagging for “offside” or any other offence for that matter and as such, they become dependant on the shouts of the crowd.

Not even the throw –in is adequately dealt with match after match. The Referee or the Assistant very rarely give a foul throw even though no less than 99% of the throws are illegal. This also does not help the football player who, on the first occasion he is challenged and penalised at home or abroad will argue the case vehemently from his position of absolute ignorance of course.

In-direct free kicks are awarded without the appropriate signal being given or indeed maintained until someone other than the kicker touches the ball. We only need one incident where from an in-direct free kick the ball enters the net directly only for the Referee to disallow the goal for the potential of a “yen bo biem”drama to unfold once again.

Speaking of “free kicks” have you ever seen one of our Referee's penalise a player for preventing a kick being quickly taken by issuing a caution and moving the ball a further 10 yards closer to the offenders goal?

During the GHALCA Coca Cola Top Four Competition, we have witnessed two dubious penalties awards without yellow cards even being issued to the offender. Just how this equates with the current Laws of the Game, which specifically state that a case of intentional handball should be penalised with a direct free kick with the offender being cautioned or sent from the field of play (dependant on the circumstances) I find quite bemusing.

In both instances the Referee was too far away to be in the best position to judge if there was an infringement or not and the referee's Assistants were not bold enough to offer any assistance either way. The penalties awarded were both equally significant, as one was never taken because Kumasi Asante Kotoko walked from the field of play and the second allowed a battered and beleaguered Kumasi King Faisal, at the time, to claw their way back into the game against Heart of Lions and subsequently secure a 2-2 draw with a late equaliser.

For as long as I can remember, the debate about the competence of the Ghanaian Referee has always been seriously scrutinised and severely criticised. This season will not be any different. With the beginning of the Ghana Telecom Premiership just around the corner I sincerely hope that our Officials will take time out to ensure they are physically in tune with the demands of the game and that they have a good working knowledge of the Laws of the Game and it's application.

The Referee and the Assistants are the most important factor of every game and footballers, pundits and the fans cannot do without them. However, games must not be decided on the ineptitude of officials but instead by great goals being scored like the strike from Ben Wilson in the recent Hearts v Faisal clash.

The critique of the Referee is also something that should not be taken as a personal attack on any one individual or indeed the Referee's Association of Ghana because the essence of the criticism and how the Referee can vastly improve will be lost. We all earnestly seek the improvement of our game and even if our National Team cannot make it to the World Cup should this be the case for the Ghanaian Referee too?

Finally, I must conclude by exclaiming my disappointment in GHALCA for not seeing fit to appoint a woman Referee to officiate in at least one of the “Top Four” clashes. I understand that a few women are actually FIFA Referees at that and I contest that they should also be afforded the opportunity to strut their stuff. Clearly, a lack of foresight from GHALCA that wont be repeated next year, we hope! Nana Kwaku Agyemang EUFA Licensed Coach and Coach Educator Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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