By Patrick Omorodion
Worldâ€™s football governing body, FIFA, like its African affiliate, CAF did during the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, has sidelined referees from Nigeria, an indication of the inadequacies of the whistle men in the country.
The FIFA Referees Committee, under the chairmanship of Angel Maria Villar Llona of Spain, on Friday released the names of 30 referees and 60 assistant referees drawn from 28 countries who will officiate at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Four African referees and eight assistant referees were picked but expectedly no Nigerian made the list, an indication that either the standard of the Nigerians is low or FIFA does not reckon with the officials under whose nose clubs in the relegation zone of the Nigeria Premier League record as many as 9-0 and 13-0 to escape the relegation noose.
Among the African referees listed are Mohamed Benouaza from Algeria, Koman Coulibaly from Mali, Jerome Damon from South Africa and surprisingly Eddy Allen Mailet from Seychelles. The eight assistant referees include Celestin Ntagungira from Rwanda.
Out of the 30 referees, Europe leads with 10 including controversial English man Howard Melton Webb, followed by South America with six while Asia, North and Central America and the Caribbeans have four like Africa while Oceania brings the rear with two.
In a release sent to Sunday Vanguard sports, FIFA said that it has â€œimplemented a comprehensive programme to ensure that the referees for (the World Cup) are in peak condition come June 11.
According to FIFA, the refereesâ€™ selection began with â€œan initial group of 54 trios of referees from all over the world in 2007 when the FIFA Executive Committee took the important decision of creating a Refereeing Assistance Programme (RAP). One of the key objectives was to prepare this group of prospective referees for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.â€
Nigerian referees may have fallen short in the fields of refereeing technique, fitness and psychology which FIFAâ€™s Refereeing Assistance Programme (RAP) working group as well as the Medical Assessment and Research Centre used in monitoring and analysing all the information gathered on each of the referees who officiate in each of the confederations.
FIFA also added in its release that â€œthe latest technology (was) implemented in the preparation of the referees both within practical training, and interactive sessions, whilst performances at respective FIFA competitions were also analysed and evaluated.â€
The selected group of 30 trios of referees, FIFA disclosed, will participate in a training seminar next month.
â€œIn May, a final assessment will be conducted and a decision made regarding the acting and support referees prior to the first match appointments being made for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa,â€ the statement added.