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Wretched refs in round robin

If there has been one shortcoming at Afcon 2013 it has been the performance, or lack thereof, of the refs in the round robin stage. Their mistakes have been many and unfortunately their outcome was crucial for some.

All we know is that their blunders have come without rhyme or reason, begging the question as to why such cooks have been allowed to baby-sit the restaurant-quality soup bubbling in the kitchen? After all, last time I checked Afcon was still Africa’s elite competition and surely we must have better.

Let’s start with the Ghana v Mali game. Here, incomprehensibly, referee Doue Noumandiez not only denied Mali a penalty but failed to expel Black Star goalkeeper Fatau Dauda. As opposing captain Keita’s anguish flashed around the world - sandwiched between clips of Dauda slipping and handling the ball outside the 18 yard box - one could feel his pain and only pray that this blown call would not be of consequence. It was. Mali lost 1-0.

Then there is the gargantuan case of the Super Eagles, who must feel like they have a target painted on their chest rather than the NFF logo. While the second yellow and resulting red given to Efe Ambrose during their 1-1 draw with Burkina Faso can be described as heavy handed, the penalty against Zambia was downright criminal.

I am told that Cairo is the most dangerous city to drive in the world, based on their total number of accidents in relation to its overall population. Well since referee Ghead Grisha, who handled the game, also calls it his home and can legally drive there despite his obvious vision problem – I am no longer shocked. Should he ever visit Nigeria I know he won’t be allowed on a tricycle, let alone drive a car.

To influence the outcome of such a crucial game with such an erroneous call, within minutes of the end whistle, is a crying shame. Ex Eagles captain Sunday Oliseh astutely sums it up the best when he says, “It’s a disgrace to Africa and the quality of football we are now playing. It also shows why Fifa doesn’t care for African refs.”

Henry Nwosu, another ex Eagles star, even goes as far as to cite a conspiracy against the West Africans. Now I agree that’s a little absurd but before you totally dismiss him as a clown don’t forget another bad Afcon call that haunts Nigeria till today and makes her still a little paranoid. Remember? This time it was an Ikpeba penalty that crossed the line but was wrongly waived off, costing the Eagles their third title.

Gervinho and all of Ivory Coast have a quarrel with the officials. This is because his second goal against Algeria was ruled offside but it clearly was not. One can only thank God that his team put another three past the Fennec Foxes and that the game result would not be affected by that one horrible call.

That was not all. The Elephants should also have been awarded a penalty toward the end of the first half when Tunisia captain Khalil Chammam handled the ball in the 18-yard area but referee Rajindraparsad Seechurn of Mauritius waved away their appeals.

Having blown off my steam I must also mention that they actually did get things right sometimes.

One such proper call was one that Ethiopia probably wishes had not been made. No I’m not talking about the deserved red card given to goalkeeper Jemal Tassew after his terrible tackle in their curtain-raiser against Zambia. Left to me, the South African police should have escorted him onto the next Air Ethiopia flight bound for Addis or to the next Kung Fu tournament. This one came in the Burkina Faso game and the scenario was exactly as described above in the Ghana v Mali game.

This time, though, the Eritrean linesman was spot on and flagged the foul, resulting in the ref tossing the Stallions goalkeeper Abdoulaye Soulama. It was a horrible gift for the East Africans, who subsequently got torn apart by the 10-man Burkina team, who counterattacked and simply ran away with game, thumping the Walya Antelopes 4-0.

As the competition now moves into the knockout stage I, for one, can only pray that Caf has been watching and taking notes. Hopefully she will now weed out the blind mice from the true men in black and ensure that the new African champions are crowned fair and square.

If not, no matter how spectacular the tourney turns out to be and regardless of how the quality of football improves, we all will be left with the bitter taste of mediocrity in our mouths and that, in 2013, would be a crying shame.

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