Warning to Warner

Paul Reid
Date Published: 
Jamaica Gleaner


REFEREES IN the Confederation of North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF), the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the Asian football body seem to have found a new patron saint in CONCACAF president, Austin 'Jack' Warner.

Earlier this week, the Trinidadian attacked the world's governing body, Federation of International Football Association (FIFA), over a suggestion that on the surface would appear discriminatory against whistle-blowers and flag-wavers from the three regions.

After what was perceived as one of the worst displays of refereeing ever in the last World Cup in Japan/South Korea, FIFA is suggesting that for the 2006 World Cup in Germany officials would be chosen in teams of threes. This means that the same groups from their respective countries would continue to work together, in whichever competition they attend, World Cup included.

Warner has interpreted this as meaning that officials from the lesser footballing regions would be left out and described the suggestion as the "worst refereeing decisions of all times."

Jack, I beg to differ. Maybe you need to go back to the tapes of the last World Cup for a refresher. Your own countryman, Michael Ragoonath, who ran one of the lines in the quarterfinal game involving Spain and South Korea.

Ray Charles could have done a better job as at least one horrible decision robbed Spain of a place in the semifinals when he disallowed a late goal.

Chances are poor Ragoonath had no choice in the whole matter. Imagine South Korea who never came close to even winning one of their previous 14 World Cup matches, making it all the way to the semifinals? Great sport story, you say? Maybe it was more a case of gate receipts as one of the joint hosts had to progress deep into the tournament to make it a financial success.

We could take it a bit further than that: how did South Korea earn the right to jointly host the tournament in the first place? Hmm, some questions are better not asked, as we might not like the answers.

Anyhow the topic is on the referees and Jack's contention of discrimination.

What is to prevent each national federation start putting the best three officials together as teams and ensure they are at least considered for selection?

Sounds like we are making a mountain out of a molehill and pre-empting situations that can easily be dealt with way in advance.

Jamaica sent an assistant, Extol Powell, to the 1998 World Cup in France and a referee to the last World Cup in Japan/South Korea and both have performed with credit, advancing to the quarterfinals and came out smelling like roses even after making tough decisions.

Trinidad has managed to send a referee and an assistant to two World Cups.

What's my point, you ask?

We can do it; we can have a least one team from both Jamaica and Trinidad at the next World Cup, no matter what the FIFA regulations are. I can bet that the USA and Mexico and maybe even one of the Central American countries are not sitting around wringing their hands and claiming discrimination from FIFA.

What Jack's most recent outburst tells me is that he has little or no confidence in the abilities of the referees in the region.

It sounds as if he is admitting what most football fans already would be willing to tell you anyway—that our referees, save for a few, are not in the business for the right reasons.

Just look around any parish association and you will see referees who have been in the sport for years and never seem to go anywhere. They are the ones who are always doing the youth leagues, the comer leagues and the lower division games.

They never get into any national competitions, maybe because they never get themselves upgraded, never report for Coopers Tests and most importantly never keep themselves in
proper physical condition.

Unfortunately for the game, if the respective associations were to weed out these bad refs and linesmen and those who have no concept of the game and how to apply the rules, there would not be enough refs left to go through the entire season.

What Jack should consider doing is using his position as a FIFA vice-president to improve the lot for referees in the region, insist on more referees going on exchange programme, expose them to more professional situations and training.

Maybe if he starts now, come 2006, we might have a number of referees teams booking their seats to Germany, ensuring the region will be represented even if our national teams are not there.