The Head of Refereeing at the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Desire Noumandiez Doue, has cited the exclusion of Nigerian referees from the 2023 African Cup of Nations roster, stating that they were not selected because they are not deemed the best, Soccernet.ng reports.
During a CAF referees training session at Sol Beni (ASEC Mimosas Training Centre) in Abidjan on Thursday, Doue emphasised the importance of Nigerian referees enhancing their performance to meet CAF standards.
The last time a Nigerian referee served as the center referee in a Nations Cup game was in 2006, marking 18 years since a Nigerian referee officiated at the tournament.
The Ivorian referee, reacting to why Nigeria has not officiated at AFCON for 18 years, acknowledged that Nigeria has competent referees but urged them to actively participate in CAF competitions.
Doue clarified Soccernet.ng that while Nigeria has good referees for domestic and regional matches, CAF seeks the absolute best for continental competitions like the AFCON.
“You have good referees in Nigeria, but this is our message to them, they need to come to the CAF competition, especially to the AFCON.
He emphasised that the selection process for referees spans over a year and a half, involving continuous scouting, evaluation, and selection.
He added: “We don’t need good referees; good referees are for the MAs, and good referees are for the zone, in CAF we need the best, so Nigerian referees are good, but they can still improve if they need assistance. They need to do more to be among the best because the selection has been started for one year and a half, so we are in a continuous process of scouting, evaluating, and selecting.”
Doue highlighted the progression from young talent to elite levels, with the final selection for AFCON being made from the elite A category.
He encouraged Nigerian referees to strive for improvement, indicating that the quest for the best referees is an ongoing process.
“You know we have different stages; you start with young talent, then you go to elite B; after that, you proceed to elite A, then you go professional among the best, and it’s among the elite A we picked from AFCON,” he continued.
Addressing the performance of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), Doue admitted that CAF is working to enhance the VAR process.
“Presently, nobody can’t learn from us, we are just trying to do our best, you know all the leagues are different, the approach is different, the philosophy is different, and the understanding is different, we are concentrating on our league and we are trying to do our best. We know we still have space for improvement because this is a continuous learning process. We know we have challenges, and we need to have space for improvement, and we will continue to do that,” he said.
He expressed satisfaction with the positive feedback on VAR’s success at AFCON but cautioned against premature praise, emphasising that the competition is ongoing and challenges may arise.
He stated: “We are glad to hear the feedback about the success of VAR at AFCON because we are always happy because it not like this before, we are very happy but at the same time we know that this is for the moment as we need to keep the standard of our performance that is why we continue to work hard.”
Doue concluded by stressing the need for continuous improvement, stating that the focus is not just on the current competition but also on maintaining high standards beyond the tournament.
“People should not praise us for now until after the competition, because when we do mistake, all of us are feeling this mistake and when referee is doing good all of us are feeling happy, that is why we will continue to work as a group.
“This is just a step, the competition is still on, we still have challenges after this competition, so for us is not to stop now and say yes we did great, no.” Said Desire.
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The next AFCON tournament will be held in 2025, and the Nigerian referees will be hoping to get a good chance to prove all doubters wrong.