Amidst the ongoing controversy surrounding the exclusion of Nigerian match officials from AFCON 2023 duties, Senator John Enoh, the Minister of Sports Development, has expressed the need for an immediate meeting with the Nigerian Premier Football League (NPFL) club owners and referees.
The minister has personally requested to engage with these stakeholders before the upcoming elite league season kicks off, aiming to convey official communication.
Senator Enoh said that “we must strive to get it right this time because we cannot afford to keep going in circles. I am glad that there is a 30% increment on the indemnities of referees. Other things must be put in place to create an enabling environment for officiating to be at a level we want.”
“Referees are an important part of football and their performance can have an impact on results, the general ranking of our league and the kind of image we have, so we have to get it right,” the minister pointed.
It will be recalled that the Confederation of African Football, CAF had listed 85 referees of various departments ahead of the AFCON.
Surprisingly, no referee from Nigeria was selected among the referees shortlisted for the course, which signifies that there might not be any of the country’s match officials at the Nations Cup next year.
In February, 29 Nigerian referees were awarded the FIFA badges, the highest qualification in the profession. Sadly, none of them made the list. It is also the 13th time that no Nigerian referee will be officiating at the AFCON.
In a meeting with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), the Nigerian Referees Association and the board of the NPFL, Enoh expressed his disappointment with the development from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and called for urgent measures to address the issue.
He stated that going into the new season, there is need to engage with referees and club owners, so as to ensure that all parties are all in a position to know what is expected of them and how to go about the discharge of their responsibilities, for the good of the game and the international image of nation.
Meanwhile, stakeholders have bemoaned another exclusion of Nigerian referees from AFCON expressing fear that if something is not done urgently to address some of the problems that have bedevilled the NRA, in no distant future, no Nigerian referee will be considered good enough to handle even CAF inter-club competitions.