Malawi is one of only four countries on the continent that are not officiating the ongoing 2015 Africa Cup of Nations’ qualifiers due to poor performance.
According to a list released by CAF, over 170 referees are officiating Africa’s premier football showcase qualifiers, with some countries contributing four referees while countries such as South Sudan and Comoros Islands, that are considered lightweights in the game, have contributed at least one each.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) referees’ subcommittee chairperson James Mwenda and revered former Fifa and CAF elite referee Bester Kalombo yesterday attributed the situation to poor performance on the international stage.
The two officials said the development comes as a result of local referees’ failure to make the grade when officiating qualifiers of smaller tournaments.
“It is a cause for worry and at the same time a wake-up call that we need to do something about the standards of officiation.
“Our top referees need to pull up their socks and aim high when they are chosen to officiate international games and not be contented with average performance because Fifa and CAF send assessors and match commissioners who assess their performance,” said Mwenda.
The FAM official also warned top referees that they risk their Fifa badges if they do not perform to the expected standards.
“I will not mention names, but suffice to say some referees’ performance has gone down and they should not be surprised when they are struck off Fifa list next year because the recommendation is made by local authorities,” he said.
Mwenda also said local top referees have no excuse for their dismal performance because FAM in conjunction with CAF organise elite courses at least once or twice a year.
Kalombo, who worked as CAF refereeing manager for eight years, said the criterion to choose referees to officiate at such a bigger stage is based on performance.
Said Kalombo: “During the first quarter of the year, CAF gives every member association a minimum of two [international] matches and they are assessed based on performance and the marks do count a lot. If they impress, they are invited for an elite course to prepare them for bigger tournaments such as Afcon.
“To summarise it, before I left [CAF], we had a list of elite A and elite B referees and Malawi only had one elite A assistant referee, Moffat Champiti who retired a couple of years back, then we had Anthony Raphael who was coming up, but his performance has gone down of late.”
He also cited Dennis Nguluwe as the other promising referee, “but he is still in the junior ranks and can only officiate qualifiers of smaller tournaments such as the CAF Confederations Cup until he can make the grade.”
Kalombo further faulted the recruitment system of referees, saying: “Our recruitment system is not correct because we just pick anyhow without considering academic qualifications.
“For the past nine years, I have travelled in all the 53 countries affiliated to CAF and my observation is that unlike in other countries, our academic level of choosing referees is not good compared to other countries.”
Kalombo, therefore, suggested the need to consider a minimum of Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) when recruiting referees, saying football is a dynamic game and needs to be officiated by referees that have good academic background.
“Academic qualifications and courage are the key components in refereeing career and that is where we are lacking. There are some that we are trying to groom, but it might take us a bit of time,” said Kalombo.
Nguluwe, who is considered one of the top referees on the domestic scene, said it is unfortunate that none of the local referees has been selected for the Afcon qualifiers.
“It is indeed a wake-up call and it is food for thought for all of us local referees to work even harder because it exposes the huge gap that is there between us and the other top referees across the continent,” said Nguluwe.
However, Nguluwe said he is optimistic about making it into the elite A class having attended an elite course recently.