Former FIFA badge referee, Anietie Ferdinand Udoh has backed his erstwhile colleagues after they were snubbed by CAF in the selection for referees to officiate at next year’s Nations Cup.
CAF released a 69-man list of match officials on Tuesday. the referees will undergo a preparatory course to get them ready for the continental championship which will be held between 13 January and 11 February 2024 in Cote d’Ivoire. There was no Nigerian among the 32 referees, 33 assistant referees, and 4 VAR referees listed.
Following the publication of the list, Nigerians expressed their disappointment both online and offline on the exclusion of Nigerian referees, with some people blaming it on the poor level of match officials in the country.
However, retired FIFA badge referee, Ferdinand Udoh has refuted those claims and instead blames nepotism, zoning system, and politics for the exclusion of the country’s elite referees.
“Nigerian referees are not bad, in fact, we have some of the best crop of referees in Africa and the world,” Ferdinand said while speaking on Sports Vibes on Lasgidi FM.
“At the last AFCON, we had Samuel Pwadutakam as one of the assistant referees and he was also involved at the CHAN. For someone at that level, he should be part of this list but because we don’t play the politics within CAF and are not deliberate refereeing activities, he misses out.”
Quizzed on how Nigeria can best address the issue, he said: “Until we become deliberate about referee activities, leave nepotism and zoning system, we won’t get past it.”
A COSTLY SNUB
When asked about the cost of our referees and instructors missing out on this course, the ex-NPFL referee noted that it could affect officiating standards in the league.
“The selected referees will be taught some technical aspects and brought up to speed on changes to the Laws of the Game and its application. But because our referees and instructors are missing out, we might not be able to get to that level in our league.”
Ferdinand hopes that the new Nigeria Referees Association executives led by Sanni Zubair along with the Referees Committee will work in synergy to halt this situation on time so Nigeria can start having referees at that level.
While Nigerian referees will miss out on the continental showpiece, the Super Eagles will play in the competition after finishing top of their qualifying group.