My WhatsApp status reads “Be a groupie and obsess about into oyithandayo mdlali (something that you love player)” and it has been unchanged for many years.
My obsession is idiski bafethu. Yhoooooo I love this game so much that I sometimes go insane, my belly burns oftentimes and when that happens, the only person who can handle or take my abuse is
my good friend Simphiwe Clans.
You see, Simphiwe is one of a few people that I’ve met that are as passionate about the game. He just gets it, man. Everyone needs a person like that in their lives. It’s very much like a love affair, you need a genuine partner you can trust.
The refereeing debate was reaching the boiling point and as usual, I dialed Simphiwe to test his feelings about the issue. We agreed on many things, but as he often does, he flipped the conversation with a gem of a statement and “players make more mistakes than referees”.
I lost my mind with excitement when he said that because it’s true. Players indeed make way more mistakes than referees, but fans, players, coaches, everyone finds a way to give them a chance at redemption.
When a striker misses a goal or makes a defensive error that because their team to lose, people don’t go on and on about the error as long as they would when a referee makes a mistake.
When a player makes a mistake, in fact even when a coach makes a bad decision, it’s accepted as “part of the game”. But when the ouens with the whistle and flags make mistakes, people go on and on and everyone thinks that is okay. It’s not.
We really lack appreciation for referees and what they bring to the game. Watching the recent Rugby World Cup, I noticed how respected referees were in rugby, a game with way more tiny margins for error, sometimes even dangerous. In football, we forget that they are the authority during a match. They are there to make sure we have a competitive match.
They human beings too, so they will make mistakes during a match. We also forget that unlike the players and coaches who get paid quite a bit; referees volunteered their time and lives.
Sad still is that no player or coach would ever dare do or consider as a career. I’ve asked Thando Mngomeni this and he replied with a flat “no ways and take all that abuse from players? No ways!”
Former Western Province and Springbok Sevens player Egon Seconds has done it, he trained as a
referee after he retired and has done pretty well. Why can’t a former PSL take on the challenge?
Here’s another thing, millions have floated around over the past 30 or so years since SA football has been in the world’s spotlight. Players’ lives have changed as their earnings have improved, coaches and even owners are getting a fair share of the profits, he’ll even the fat cats in suits and administration offices have benefited.
Yet the first time referees received an investment worth talking about was about a year ago, when OutSurance was announced as a sponsor for referees.
Some of that money was supposed to go to referee development. And here we are; fans, journalists, players, coaches, everyone is challenging referees and the South African Football Association (Safa) haven’t reacted with a strategy to improve the standard of refereeing.
Referees, like players and coaches, go home and have to deal with the consequences of their actions. It’s a psychological nightmare. While players and coaches go back to the training field a day or so later, most referees go back to their regular jobs before they go back to the field again a week or later.
So how dare we expect referees to be okay and improve if they are not given the tools or space to improve?
People crack their skulls developing strategies on how to develop better players and coaches. We hear and read about Vision 20 what-what and such things, what’s the vision for the referees? I don’t play professionally or coach, so I can only give my food for thought to you my fellow fans and friends. It’s easy to criticise when things are not going well.
Let me leave you with the this, how do you think your favourite player and coach would do if they were given a whistle? You think it’s simple and easy mos!