Who wants to be a referee?
Who wants to be a referee? It’s a question I’ve been asked many, many times and to honest, I still can’t give you a plausible answer.
My wife once told me that it was like being in love. She said it’s like an itching in your heart that you cannot scratch.
In many ways there’s a lot of truth in that because it has to be the most ungrateful, thankless, least rewarding “occupation” under the sun.
Just think. You get spat at, shouted at, and even threatened. Not forgetting having your parentage called into question and called all sorts of names, most of which are unprintable.
Refereeing is purely voluntary and no one can, or will, force you to do it. You do it for the love of the game and the enjoyment of participating in a sport we all love.
Didn’t the great Pele once call it the “beautiful game?”
Let me tell you of some experiences I’ve had and see if you will look at the “middle-man” in a different light in future.
1. I was due to referee a mid-table game on Sunday afternoon in Johannesburg. Many of you will remember the George Goch stadium along the motorway.
I got a call to my office from a man who firstly enquired if I was Errol Sweeney and if I was the referee of the Moroka Swallows game on Sunday afternoon. I said I was. His next words have lived with me since that time. He said “If Swallows don’t win you’ll get a bullet in your face.” Before I could tell him what I thought of him and his comment he hung up. I went on to do the game and Swallows lost. I didn’t get the bullet in my face.
2. I was appointed to a game in Tembisa on the East rand between Orlando Pirates and Arcadia Shepherds from Pretoria. I think Pirates were going for the league that year so they needed all the points they could get. The game was 1-1 into the second half. The Buccaneer fans weren’t happy with me as I had already disallowed two goals on them for offside. I awarded a free kick to the home side. I specifically said to Bashin Mhlangu of Pirates not to take the free kick until I stepped out the 10 yards. As I was getting the Arcadia wall back I was nearly knocked to the ground by Deshir Baktar, the Shepherds keeper. The ball went into the net. I disallowed the goal and yellow carded Mr Mhlangu, much to the consternation of the Pirates fans. To say they were angry is putting it very mildly. My linesmen and I had to be escorted by the PSL security off the field at the end and to the safety of the dressing room. We were holed up there for almost 90 minutes after the game. Eventually we were taken out in the back of a police-armoured vehicle. I have no doubt that had we not the protection of these brave security people we would surely have been killed.
3. I was appointed to a relegation game in Bloemfontein. The home team and their opponents on that day were in danger of facing the drop to the 1st division from the Premier league. I knew there was a lot at stake and so I took extra precautions to avoid any contact with anyone other than what was necessary. I told the hotel manager not to even divulge whether I was in the hotel or not, let alone what room I was in. When I got to my room there was a .45 bullet on my bedside table. How that round of ammunition got there and, more importantly, who put it there is a mystery to this day. I went ahead and did the game and the day passed of peacefully.
I could elaborate a lot more but I fear there wouldn’t be enough space on the supersport.com website.
Many people go to games and shout their mouths off. Some do it from the comfort of their armchairs. They criticise for the sake of criticising, sometimes out of pure ignorance of the Fifa Laws of the Game.
I’m not saying refs get it right all the time – they don’t. Perhaps with the advent of slow motion replays it’s easier to prove the ref or his assistant wrong.
Spare a thought for the men and women in black though. They don’t have that facility. Why? Only the big-wigs at Fifa know.
Life for us would be so much easier if we could use this technology. It’s way past the time for it to be introduced and the sooner the better for all concerned because then we will get justice for all and perhaps expose the cheats and divers who masquerade around as over-paid, over-rated prima donnas.
Dr Errol Sweeney