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Sports News of Monday, 16 January 2023


Why Nigerian referees will continue to be overlooked by FIFA

Faith Irabor play videoFaith Irabor

Over the last few years, the Nigerian match officials’ decisions have not been something to write home about.

However, it is no longer news that the Nigerian Football League has been entangled in a web of corruption. This is supported by evident practices and concerns from football fans.

It should be noted that during the 2021-22 Nigeria Football Premier League season, a football official admitted to influencing a match after a viral video became a sensation on social media.

However, it is thought that FIFA’s decision not to assign any Nigerian match officials to officiate at the impending 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is not to blame.

Many people complained and scolded, but they forgot that in order to resolve a street issue, you must first guarantee that your house is peaceful.

We may have to place all the responsibility on Amaju Pinnick, the previous head of the Nigeria Football Federation, who, despite all the evident flaws, left the glass house untouched.

Is Nigeria now at peace after his departure? Under Ibrahim Gusau’s administration, the NFF recently appointed Faith Irabor as the chairperson of the Nigerian FA’s referees’ committee, making her the first woman to hold that post.

Pinnick’s Successor, Gusau, remarked in his comment, “Immediately, I was elected as NFF president, I promised that I will change the narratives. First of all, we tried as much as possible to make sure that we do what is right, and secondly, you see, this is something that has never happened before,” he said.

While this is a noble effort, recent occurrences in the football league demonstrate that nothing has changed and that the same meal is being served.

During the encounter between Delta Queens and Rivers Angels, the match referee rejected two apparent goals.

A Delta Queens goal was disallowed by the referee due to a foul. The Delta Queens striker, on the other hand, made no touch with the Rivers United defender, who tripped after failing to clear the ball.

Delta Queens also scored another goal, but the referee ruled it out owing to offside.

Perhaps it was simply the Nigeria Women’s Premier League. But what about the NPFL encounter between Bendel Insurance and Akwa United, in which the referee awarded an enigmatic goal by Imade Osehenkhoe?

The match official awarded a goal that seemed to be shot by the side of the net as a goal, much to the chagrin of Akwa United and the fans.

“FIFA shuns Nigerian Referee,” “FIFA ignores Nigerian Referee,” and a slew of other headlines dominated the media when FIFA took a choice they believed was in their best interests.

While it seemed disrespectful to the ostensible “giants of Africa,” it should also be noted that the actions, competence, and talents of these match officials are being evaluated.

“As always, the criteria we have used is ‘quality first’ and the selected on-field match officials represent the highest level of refereeing worldwide.” said Pierluigi Collina, coordinator of the FIFA Referees Committee, in highlighting the selection being based on the “quality” of the referees.

Do we need to choose our forks, knives, and stones to battle FIFA with our headlines, or should we explore why they have stressed “quality”?

Or would you rather have Auwalu Baba Jada suspended for match rigging, represent the nation on the global stage, or not be chosen?

Dear Faith Irabor, one day we want to ask you to reflect on the “quality” of your team and tell us how you plan to remedy this lack of “quality.”

But, before we get there, remember you stated after your appointment: “One thing I will do is to try as much as possible to encourage those who will take their job seriously.
“It won’t be business as usual, and I won’t tolerate anything that will damage the image of our football.”

Less than 48 hours, it was business as usual for Delta Queens vs. Rivers Angels and Imade’s mysterious goal.

A former FIFA-badged referee would understandably shine a light of discipline on the Nigeria football league, but the world will be watching when the powerful men begin to dim those lights.