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Nigeria refs torn apart by FIFA fitness test

The genesis of the cat and mouse relationship between the referees and the CAF instructors is said to be their insistence that Nigeria FIFA referees…

The genesis of the cat and mouse relationship between the referees and the CAF instructors is said to be their insistence that Nigeria FIFA referees must run 12 laps as against 10 as approved by FIFA and CAF just as it is said they had insisted that the referees must undergo fitness test every quarter instead of once a year as approved by FIFA and CAF.

Consequently, when the CAF Instructors called for another fitness test for FIFA referees last Wednesday, there was serious tension as most of the referees backed by the NRA stayed away from the exercise which held at the Abuja National Stadium.

Less than half of the 28 FIFA graded referees in the country, took part in the exercise as none of the FIFA referees from the north participated. Obviously, the referees of northern extraction had to show solidarity with their kins-man, Alhaji Ahmed Maude, who is the president of NRA.

Speaking to Feverpitch on the frosty relationship between the NRA and the CAF Instructors, the NRA President said the referees had their first fitness test in October and another one in November during the seminar which to him is enough to prove the referees’ fitness.

He said even as Mba and Obafemi could not produce any document to show that the laps to be ran by the referees had been increased from 10 to 12, they obeyed and ran 12 laps each during the fitness exercises held last year.

Maude therefore maintained that it was agreed that in order to minimize injuries and fatigue, the referees should not run quarterly as demanded by the Nigerian CAF Instructors.

He said: “Yes most of the referees stayed away from the exercise because we all agreed that it is not mandatory. I do not know what they want to achieve by insisting that the referees must undergo fitness test every quarter.

“We had agreed that having done the test in October and November, there is no need for another fitness test. All of a sudden, they said the referees should come and do another test. And we are saying this is not correct.

“How can these same people who did fitness test in November be asked to have another one in February and this is not coming from FIFA or CAF. We have asked them to show us the circular to this effect but they are yet to do so.

“I don’t think it is proper for us to place unnecessary burden on our referees. As much as possible, we have to cut down fatigue and injuries that may be sustained by the referees in the course of such exercises”.

One of the FIFA referees from the South-west who spoke on condition of anonymity said most of them refused to participate in the fitness test because they see it as witch-haunting by the CAF Instructors.

“Some of us refused to take part in the fitness exercise because we have not seen the circular that says we should have fitness test four times in a year. Some people just want to witch-haunt some of us because their people have lost out.

“We have to abide by the position of NRA that the exercise is not necessary. Until they prove that such directive is from FIFA or CAF, we are not going to obey it”, he stated.

Another FIFA referee who took part in the exercise said: “I took part just to be on the safer side. I did not believe in this but I have to do it in case the directive is coming from either FIFA or CAF”.

However, the man at the centre of the controversy, Mba told Feverpitch in a telephone interview that the directive is from FIFA and is contained in a booklet and the leadership of the NRA is aware of it.

He said most of the referees who are opposed to the regular FIFA fitness test are the old ones who have under declared their ages and are afraid of failing the fitness test.

Mba explained that at a stage, they the CAF Instructors were even reprimanded by FIFA for not implementing its directive on fitness test as he said the referees committee of FIFA accused him of attempting to cover up unfit referees.

His words: “Right from last year, FIFA issued an organizational structure which demands that all FIFA referees must do physical fitness test four times in a year. And when the FIFA people came last year, they accused us that I was hiding Nigeria FIFA referees.

“The truth is that they want to monitor all their referees in terms of match appointment and physical fitness. They may even come to supervise some of these fitness tests. We have handed over this information to the referees that it is mandatory that they do it this year. I therefore do not see any basis for the complaints.

“Those who are complaining are the referees who are old but claiming that they are young. Some of the referees are not medically fit and that is why FIFA is insisting on this. This is not about Linus Mba, it is not about Emmanuel Obafemi. It is from FIFA”, he explained.

Mba said those referees who failed to turn up for the latest fitness test would be given another chance soon saying dire consequences await whoever would fail to turn up.

“What we have now decided to do is that we give them another chance to come and run and prove that they are fit to officiate”,

Meanwhile, there is no love lost between the leadership of the NRA which believes the duo of Mba and Obafemi are out to frustrate the FIFA referees simply because their prodigies have failed to reach the zenith of football refereeing. But this is an allegation that Mba promptly refuted.

“I have no reason to do anything to punish my people. I want those who are opposed to this to know that even when referees are appointed for tournaments, they are required to have another fitness test”, he said.