Players of Polokwane City argue with referee Cedric Muvhali during their match against Cape Town City FC. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix
It’s hard to be a gracious loser when you are a born winner. This business of being gracious in defeat is overrated, if you ask me.

The problem though is that there are things that you can’t do or say after a defeat, as it makes you come across as a sore loser - or worse, making excuses.

Benni McCarthy’s valid point on the state of officiating in the country came out as the ramblings of a sore loser after Cape Town City’s 1-0 defeat to Orlando Pirates.

But there was an element of truth in his statement.

“South Africa needs to up our refereeing a little bit,” McCarthy said.

“I think for me it’s the biggest thing that’s keeping our football a little bit behind because the quality and talent is there.

“The referee killed a little bit a good game of football. But ja when you are on the losing side people are always going to say ‘excuses excuses’.

“But I have said this every week now since I’ve started my coaching career. Every game, I’ve not been happy with the referee, with their decision-making.

“When you score a legitimate goal and then it gets disallowed without even giving the coach an explanation on why (leaves a bitter taste). When you watch European football referees give the coach an explanation because they’ve got the right to know why goals were disallowed.

“And here it’s ‘our way or the highway’.”

Admittedly, local referees haven’t covered themselves in glory so far this season. Almost every game that has been played has been littered with mistakes from the officials. Yes, mistakes happen here and there but mistakes shouldn’t be the only consistent thing referees have given us.

The opening game between Bidvest Wits and Golden Arrows at Bidvest Stadium in the MTN8 set the tone.

Phillip Tinyani sent off six people in that emotionally-charged match, three of them being coaches. If Tinyani had a better handle of that match, it wouldn’t have deteriorated into a brawl, with even club officials slinging swear words at each other.

Tinyani should have stamped his authority early into the match to control it better.

There needs to be more self-introspection and evaluation of our officials so that they stay at the top of their game.

Apparently the South African Football Association (Safa), which manages referees, have a review committee.

I wonder which world that committee lives in, because it definitely doesn’t live in the world we live in.

If they did, they would have spoken out on the standard of refereeing - which has been poor - as well as table ways to improve it.

That committee needs to be more transparent in how they do their work and, importantly, be more effective. They shouldn’t only surface when there are serious problems.

“The referee or the assistant referee that has committed an incident affecting the outcome of the game shall immediately cease to be appointed for matches until such a time that the matter has been dealt with and finalised,” the referee’s disciplinary code reads.

If this rule was to be properly applied, we would have only a handful of referees this season.

Coaches and players live and die by the mistakes they make. The same should happen to referees if we are to improve.

But it shouldn’t just end at taking action against referees who commit mistakes.

More should be done to empower them in what is a demanding and a thankless job.

At the moment our referees are given nothing more than just a plank and told to negotiate their way in turbulent seas.

“His job is to make himself hated,” Eduardo Galeano writes about the referee in Football in the Sun and Shadow.

“The only universal sentiment in football: everybody hates him. He always gets catcalls, never applause. No one runs more. The only one obliged to run the entire game without pause, this interloper who pants in the ears of every player breaks his back galloping like a horse. And in return for his pains, the crowd howls for his head.”

Yes, the referees have been disappointing, but have the people who run the game done right by them?

We have to question how referees have been doing their job but we also have to question the people who are supposed to ensure that they give referees adequate support.

It’s not only the referees who need to up their game, it’s the people who are responsible for supplying them to us who also need to up their game by properly supporting them.

You can’t want to sip champagne on a beer budget.

Saturday Star

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