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Good refereeing has no gender

It was Maurice Chevalier who sang that very famous song, “Thank heaven for little girls, for little girls get bigger every day.” There is no denying that and thank heavens again that they do.

In a recent EPL game involving one of the big “guns” (Chelsea), a female assistant referee showed her male colleagues just how it should be done.

Chelsea were playing Queens Park Rangers, one of their London rivals, in a league game when the female assistant quite correctly raised her flag for an offside just prior to referee Andre Mariner pointing to the penalty spot.

The woman wasn’t moving. She insisted that the offside occurred before the penalty had been awarded and stuck to her guns. The referee, upon looking across to his very able assistant, changed his mind, overturned his original decision, and concurred with the assistant.

This woman’s name is Sian Massey and she is an assistant referee in the EPL.

She was born in October 1985 and has had appointments in the EPL, the Football league Trophy, Uefa Women’s Champions League and Fifa Women’s World Cup qualifying matches. She is no slouch when it comes to experience or ability.

After her second premier league game as an assistant in the Wolverhampton Wanderers v Liverpool game in January 2011, controversy arose when Sky Sports commentator Andy Gray was fired and Richard Keys was forced to resign. A third Sky man, Andy Burton, was suspended.

They made disparaging remarks regarding her gender, which need not be repeated here. Suffice to say, the three Sky employees subsequently tried to make light of the remarks in their patronising and condescending way but Sky were having none of it and all three got the punishment they deserved.

The woman is very accomplished and shows the fortitude, poise and professionalism that some of her male colleagues do not appear to have. Keep up the good work Sian. You are an example to all aspiring match officials, regardless of gender.

On a separate but more immediate issue, the Africa Cup of Nations starts this coming weekend. The tournament had originally been scheduled for Libya but, due to the civil unrest which saw the overthrow of the Ghaddafi regime, was moved to South Africa. Libya will now host the 2017 tournament.

These are not settled times within the South African football community.

Turmoil never seems far away within soccer circles and, with the recent release of a Fifa security report that named five top Safa officials including the president and the head of referees, the future seems cloudy to say the least.

The unfortunate issue here from a refereeing point of view is that a “shady” company was recruited to organise at least four “warm-up” games for Bafana Bafana (as the national team is known) prior to the 2010 World Cup.

Sadly there appeared to be a complete oversight when it came to the match officials for these games and the dodgy company called Football 4 U was given permission to arrange the refs as well.

This turned out to be a disastrous decision by the Safa people, resulting in all four games coming under suspicion and, according to the report, all four games were fixed.

I’ve mentioned the practice of corrupt officials in the past. They were clearly used in these matches and now there is a serious damage limitation exercise going on.

One national newspaper actually reported that a South African referee accompanied the Nigerian referee involved in these games to a bank in the north of the country where he deposited $100 000 and gave instructions that it be immediately transferred out of the country to his wife back home.

These one or two corrupt refs give us all a bad name. Any time a referee makes a mistake or is perceived to have made a mistake, the conspiracy theorists have a field day.

There needs to be a strong vetting of current and potential match officials and, if anything untoward is noticed, then they should not be allowed to wear the uniform that I have dedicated 40 years of my life to.

I better stop now before I say too much and land myself in hot water.

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