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CAF’s AFCON omission of Nigerian referees: A wake-up call

It is essential for football governing bodies to recognise the potential of Nigerian referees and ensure they have equal opportunities to officiate at top-level competitions.

Football has always been a unifying force in Nigeria, captivating the hearts and minds of millions of fans across the nation.

Nigerian football has produced some of the continent’s most talented players and has a rich history in African football.

However, recent developments in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) have cast a shadow over Nigeria’s involvement in the sport, particularly with the omission of Nigerian referees from officiating in the upcoming AFCON 2024.

This decision raises important questions about the implications for Nigerian football and its future.

Nigerian referee’s antecedents

Nigerian referees have a long and illustrious history in African and international football. They have consistently showcased their competence, knowledge, and professionalism on the field of play.

Nigerian referees have officiated at various levels of the game, from local leagues to international competitions. Their contributions to the development and promotion of African football cannot be understated.

However, Nigeria’s omission from the 69 referee’s member list by AFCON should give Nigerians a reason for concern.

The importance of representation

The omission of Nigerian referees from AFCON 2024 raises concerns about the lack of representation from one of Africa’s football powerhouses.

Nigeria has a strong footballing tradition, and it is only natural that its referees should be part of the continental showcase.

Representation matters not only for national pride but also for the development of the sport within the country.

Nigerian referees serve as role models for aspiring officials, and their presence at a prestigious tournament like AFCON is crucial in inspiring the next generation of talent.

Development and exposure

Officiating at international tournaments like AFCON provides Nigerian referees with invaluable experience and exposure to different styles of play and officiating standards.

This exposure is essential for their growth and development as referees. It helps them refine their skills and adapt to the ever-evolving nature of the game.

The omission from AFCON 2024 denies Nigerian referees this chance to further enhance their capabilities, which could ultimately hurt the quality of refereeing within the Nigerian leagues.

Impact on Nigerian football

The exclusion of Nigerian referees from AFCON 2024 has far-reaching implications for Nigerian football.

Firstly, it may lead to a perception that Nigerian referees are not up to the standards required for international competitions.

This could diminish the country’s standing in the African football community and affect the trust and confidence in Nigerian referees at home and abroad.

Secondly, it could potentially hinder Nigeria’s football development. The absence of Nigerian referees from a major tournament means fewer opportunities for them to learn and grow, which could, in turn, affect the quality of officiating in domestic leagues.

Good refereeing is essential for a fair and competitive football environment, and any decline in this aspect could harm the sport’s progress in Nigeria.

Way forward

The omission of Nigerian referees from officiating in AFCON 2024 is a matter of concern for Nigerian football.

It is not just about representation; it’s about the impact on the development, quality, and perception of football within the country.

It’s time for Nigerian referees to put their acts together by placing priority on professionalism and building trust.

More often than not, Nigerian referees have proven their worth on the international stage, and their exclusion from this prestigious tournament may hinder their growth and the overall progress of the sport in Nigeria.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) must ensure that going forward, the greatest footballing nation in Africa must have a representation at the AFCON.

The NFF must prioritise the welfare of referees so they don’t become vulnerable to corruption and other sharp practices.

This decision should serve as a wake-up call for all stakeholders in Nigerian football to invest in the development of referees and strive for greater representation in the future.

Writing by Oluwaseyi Ajibade; Editing by Muzha Kucha; editing by Julian Osamoto