Safa needs to step in as refs cop increasing flak

Sead Ramovic, coach of TS Galaxy. | BackpagePix

Sead Ramovic, coach of TS Galaxy. | BackpagePix

Published Apr 23, 2024




The Premier Soccer League’s foreign-born coaches like Sead Ramovic (TS Galaxy), Pablo Franco Martin (AmaZulu), Ernst Middendorp (Cape Town Spurs) and Jose Riveiro (Orlando Pirates) have been overly critical of local referees.

Lately, their explosive comments and radical reaction have dominated the coverage of local football, mainly because of a slew of controversial refereeing decisions which made them spit fire. Sometimes it is justified, sometimes not.

Sead Ramovic, coach of TS Galaxy. | BackpagePix

Of course, South African-born coaches have, over the last two seasons, also been equally guilty of directing vitriol against referees when results have not gone their way. Names like Rulani Mokwena (Mamelodi Sundowns), Eric Tinkler (Cape Town City), Fadlu Davids (Maritzburg United) and Brandon Truter (Sekhukhune United) spring to mind.

Of late the coaches’ scathing criticisms have gone unpunished. These coaches may have noticed that the PSL disciplinary committee has maintained a stony silence about coaches’ criticism of referees in the past few months.

Last season, the PSL DC clamped down on several coaches, and as a result, coaches prefaced post-match comments by saying, “I can’t tell you the truth. I will get into trouble.”

Pablo Franco Martin of AmaZulu. | BackpagePix

On Sunday evening at the Mbombela Stadium, one of the season’s biggest controversies unfolded after referee Siyabulela Qunta failed to award TS Galaxy a second-half penalty in their match against the visiting Stellenbosch.

Earlier in the half, Stellenbosch scored through their New Zealand-born midfielder Andre de Jong and Galaxy disputed the goal. Their players remonstrated with referee Qunta as the bulk of the team surrounded him.

However, the referee stood his ground, did not utter a word and restarted the match. In the absence of VAR, the match officials were spot-on with this call because TV replays showed the entire ball had crossed the goalline – by at least a metre.

Ernst Middendorp of Cape Town Spurs (right). | BackpagePix

Around the 70th minute, by which time Stellenbosch had staged a gallant fightback to take a 2-1 lead, the ref reacted to the raised flag of the assistant referee after an incident in the Stellenbosch goalmouth. Sage Stephens, the Stellenbosch goalkeeper, gathered the ball and collided with a Galaxy player.

The Galaxy players felt Stephens should have been penalised, but the assistant referee had raised his flag for a Galaxy player who had gone offside moments before the incident.

All hell broke loose when Qunta ran over to consult with his assistant and Galaxy players joined the fray. While the debate raged on the touchline, Ramovic was prancing around like a raging bull and gestured angrily at the Stellenbosch bench.

It was hard to fathom what Ramovic’s beef was with those in the Stellenbosch technical area but their coach Steve Barker, from about 20m away, gestured with sign language that he had nothing to do with the referee’s calls. But Ramovic had to be forcibly restrained by his assistants, one of whom apologised for their coach’s behaviour.

Jose Riveiro of Orlando Pirates. | BackpagePix

AmaZulu coach Pablo Franco Martin recently described the officiating in his side’s match against Orlando Pirates as “a huge scandal, a shame for the country”.

The root cause for his outburst was a penalty awarded to Pirates. In the post-match discussions experts agreed that the referee had not erred and said another referee could have made a different call without it being judged ‘incorrect’ – it was a 50-50 call.

In this case, Martin’s comments were not justified but there have been times when his criticisms were spot-on.

What is becoming clear is that many referees are not capable of handling volatile situations and allow matters to spiral out of control. Critics say many referees are brought prematurely into the Premiership arena and have coined the phrase ‘microwave refs’.

Safa is responsible for the appointment of match officials, and needs to up its game, otherwise South African football will become a laughing stock.