Following their exemplary behavior after officiating 52 matches at the just ended tournament in Egypt.
While Egypt has gone down as the first country to host the biennial competition with 24 teams, records also hold that during the 2019 AFCON, the number of referees moved from 38 to 60 and that the VAR was used for the first time at the final phase of the competition.
Compared to previous competitions, referees seem to have left the 2019 AFCON with their heads high. Apart from a few complains that raised some dust during the encounter Ghana versus Tunisia where South African referee, Victor Gomes ruled out a Black Star goal for hand ball, a vivid protest by Moroccan coach Herve Renard against the refusal by centre referee, Louis Hakizimana to allow water break, the Tunisia against Senegal semi-final match where referee, Bamlak Tessema after consulting the VAR cancelled his initial decision of awarding a penalty to Tunisia and Sidi Alioum’s u-turn during the final game pitting Algeria to Senegal last Friday, no major controversial decision was noted throughout the tournament.
Their good show can be attributed to the rigorous selection exercise that was carried out at the eve of the competition by an expert committee headed by the chairman of the CAF referee’s Commission Souleyman Waberi, the less theatrical show by players who usually dive or feint injuries to seek favors from the referee and less issuing of cards during matches which made some players less aggressive.
No doubt during the 41st General Assembly of the Association, President Ahmad Ahmad hailed the good work of the Men-in-Black, “Before the start of the competition, I was afraid of two things, security and refereeing. Now I am a happy man because of the good job done by the referees. Their performance at this tournament shows that we are making big strides…” he noted.
However, there were some out of the field controversies that nearly mar the show with the most glaring being the designation of a referee to handle the final match of the tournament. After posting on their twitter page that South African referee Victor Gomes will be the man to whistle the final game, CAF a few hours after came out with different information designating a Cameroonian referee to take charge.