The Confederation of African Football (Caf) yesterday unveiled the list of the referees who will officiate at the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Equatorial Guinea, and for the umpteenth time, there will be no Zimbabwean representative at the football extravaganza.
The Afcon finals, which were initially tabled for Morocco before the North African country pulled out due to Ebola fears, will run between January 17 and February 8.
Caf released a list comprising 44 officials — referees and linesmen — picked across the continent, but local referees were, as usual, largely left out.
Zimbabwe has had no match officials at the Afcon finals since Felix Tangawarima and Brighton Mudzamiri, both retired now, officiated at the 2002 finals in Mali — in itself a huge indictment on the standards of local referees.
Speaking to NewsDay Sport yesterday, Tangawarima, now a Fifa referees instructor, said he was not worried by the continued snub of the local officials, saying the standards were improving and believed his countrymen would start to be recognised very soon.
“I think the standards are improving based on the number of our locals who have refereed in World Cup and Afcon qualifiers and continental club competitions. It’s just a matter of time before we see them being recognised at the highest level,” Tangawarima said.
“We had Claris Simango, a female referee who officiated at the Women Afcon in Namibia recently, which is a positive sign that we are moving in the right direction. I can safely say that we are developing well and people should know that development is not an occasion, but a process. We are getting there. The problem that affected our local referees is that during our time, people were happy that we have the Tangawarimas, the Mudzamiris and the (Wilfred) Mukunas and when we left, there was a big gap left and it’s becoming difficult to close now. But I’m happy with the signs, the gap is diminishing. What is lacking at the moment are resources to fine tune the referees into world class officials,” said the man who also officiated at the Nigeria, Ghana and Burkina Faso Afcon finals.
Tangawarima, arguably the finest ever to emerge in Zimbabwe, also officiated at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in Australia, the 2001 Euro Under-21 Championships, and the 2001 Confederations Cup finals which was co-hosted by Japan and South Korea.
Mudzamiri, the only man whose achievements can possibly challenge Tangawarima’s, went on to officiate at the ensuing World Cup finals in the two Asian countries.
Afcon referees: Aboubacar Mario Bangoura (Guinea), Ali Lemghaifry (Mauritania), Bakary Papa Gassama (Gambia), Bamlak Tessema Weyesa (Ethiopia), Bernard Camille (Seychelles), Bouchaib El Ahrach (Morocco), Mohamed Hussein El Fadil (Sudan), Eric Otogo Castane (Gabon), Gehad Grisha (Egypt), Hamada Nampiandraza (Madagascar), Janny Sikazwe (Zambia), Joseph Lamptey (Ghana), Juste Zio (Burkina Faso), Koman Coulibaly (Mali), Maguette N’Diaye (Senegal), Malang Diedhiou (Senegal), Mohamed Said Kordi (Tunisia), Mehdi Abid-Charef (Algeria), Neant Alioum (Cameroun), Noumandiez Doué (Côte d’Ivoire), Rajindraparsad Seechurn (Mauritius), Victor Gomes (South Africa).
Linesmen: Abdelhak Etchiali (Algeria), Aboubacar Doumbouya (Guinea), Angesom Ogbamariam (Eritrea), Anouar Hmila (Tunisia), Balkrisna Bootun (Mauritius), Djibril Camara (Senegal), El Hadji Malick Samba (Senegal), Evarist Menkouande (Cameroun), Hassan Egueh Yacin (Djibouti), Jean-Claude Birumushasu (Burundi), Jerson dos Santos (Angola), Malick Alidu Salifu (Ghana), Marwa Range (Kenya), Oamogetse Godisamang (Botswana), Peter Edibe (Nigeria), Redouane Achik (Morocco), Songuifolo Yeo (Côte d’Ivoire), Tahssen Abo El Sadat (Egypt), Theogene Ndagijimana (Rwanda), Waleed Ahmed Ali (Sudan), Yahaya Mahamadou (Niger), Zakhele Siwela (South Africa).