Abdul Ebrahim: Mistakes happen, but nothing wrong with SA referees

Match referee Cedrick Muvhali is questioned by AmaZulu players during their recent clash against Orlando Pirates. Photo: BackpagePix

Match referee Cedrick Muvhali is questioned by AmaZulu players during their recent clash against Orlando Pirates. Photo: BackpagePix

Published May 17, 2024


Safa head of referees Abdul Ebrahim has rushed to the defence of officials who’ve been the subject of scrutiny and criticism for their poor calls in recent months.

Matches have been coming thick and fast for clubs in the DStv Premiership and Motsepe Foundation Championship, as the pretenders are separated from contenders.

And while Mamelodi Sundowns and Magesi FC have since been crowned champions of their respective leagues, the fate of some teams continues to hang by a thread due to poor refereeing.

The poor decisions also reached fever pitch in the Nedbank Cup, with AmaZulu coach Pablo Franco Martin bemoaning some calls in back-to-back matches against Orlando Pirates.

Martin’s Spanish compatriot and Pirates coach Jose Riveiro, Sundowns boss Rulani Mokwena and the coach of the relegated Cape Town Spurs, Ernst Middendorp, are some of the men that have bemoaned poor officiating.

But with the PSL yet to implement systems such as the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), it’s been hard for the clubs – such as AmaZulu – to lodge successful complaints with the PSL.

However, the head of referees at Safa, Ebrahim – who’s responsible for the training and rehabilitation of officials – has come to the defence of his trainees.

“Every season for the past few seasons, the officials have been doing very well,” Ebrahim told Independent Newspapers.

“Everyone else who’s spoken about the state of refereeing, they say that it is poor. I would like to know in comparison to what.

“Yes, mistakes do happen, but when we look at statistics more properly, we see that there’s nothing wrong with the state of refereeing.

“The work continues in the background to ensure that our referees deliver the best.”

But while coaches are usually summoned and fined by the PSL disciplinary committee (DC) when they make disparaging statements that offended the dignity of the referee, the aforementioned officials have got away scot-free.

Ebrahim believes that coaches are entitled to their opinions, but argues it would be much better if they knew the laws of the game like the back of their hand.

“People are saying it’s not going well according to the referees. But no, it’s according to teams and coaches,” Ebrahim said.

“I don’t know whether the teams and coaches have authority to comment on (the state) of refereeing. But it’s according to them and their opinions.

“But like I said in the past, they are entitled to make those comments. But it’s very sad that they are allowed to make such comments without knowing the laws of the sport.

“We don’t know how to interpret them or understand them. This is why we say refereeing is poor.”

Ebrahim reiterated that mistakes are part and parcel of the game, but has urged the football fraternity – particularly coaches – to give referees the same courtesy and benefit of the doubt they give to the players.

After all, Ebrahim argues that they are working tirelessly behind the scenes, using systems such as Fifa Referee, Education and Development (RED) to curb refereeing mistakes.

“Football is not just about refereeing. It’s a holistic thing. And if referees make mistakes, we look at the mistakes and assist them,” Ebrahim said.

“I believe that when players make mistakes, we need to assist them. We don’t suddenly say they are poor players because they couldn’t score.”

When Fifa-accredited assistant referee Zakhele Siwela sustained a potential hamstring injury during the Nedbank Cup semi-final clash between Sundowns and Stellenbosch a few weeks ago, many questioned his fitness.

Siwela has been one of the best referees in domestic football after being selected to officiate in tournaments such as the Fifa World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations.

But with injuries part and parcel of the game, Ebrahim argues that no athlete – including the referees – is immune to injuries, so the level of criticism that Siwela endured was not justified.

“Can you see how unfair the comments are that people make?” Ebrahim asked. “I don’t think I need to comment on that one.

“Referees, just like the players, are athletes. And no matter who you are as an athlete, you’ll get injured.

“So, for them to make comments that they are unfit, I would really like to know where those comments are coming from.”