Sports Minister slams AFCON referees list

Minister of Sports Development, Sen. John Owan-Enoh has expressed displeasure over the exclusion of Nigerian referees amongst match officials listed for the 2023 AFCON slated for Cote D’Ivoire.

Enoh stated this on Thursday in Abuja while reacting to the list of match officials released by the Confederation of African Football, CAF, ahead of the tournament scheduled for January, 2024.

He said given Nigeria’s football pedigree and population, the country should not be in such a predicament, that is now becoming a trend.

The minister promised to hold engagements with relevant stakeholders such as the Nigeria Football Federation, Nigeria Referees Association, among others, with a view to reversing the trend.

“At the last AFCON (2021), Nigeria only had one assistant referee listed amongst the match officials. Two years prior, we didn’t have any centre referee too.

“Going into the next AFCON (2023), we still won’t have any Nigerian official, I am going to interrogate this matter.

“We will have engagements with the NFF, the Referees’ Association, the League Board, because we need to get to the bottom of this,” he said.

Owan-Enoh noted that without prejudice to the outcome, the development calls for a reflection of the institutional setting within which sports is being administered in the country.

He reiterated his commitment to ensuring that sports across all facets thrives in the country, for Nigeria to stand tall in the comity of nations.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that CAF on Tuesday unveiled 85 referees, comprising of centre referees, assistant referees, VARs, technical instructors, for the 2023 AFCON, without any Nigerian official included.

NAN reports that Egypt and Algeria, both in North Africa, have three names listed in the center referees list, followed by Morocco, Mauritania, and Mauritius, each with two. Other nations on the list include Gabon, Ghana, Benin, Congo, Somalia and others.

The assistant referees list includes two representatives from each of Morocco, Kenya, Cote D’Ivoire, Algeria, Egypt, and South Africa, as well as lesser-known nations like Comoros, Djibouti, Burkina Faso, and Sao Tome and Principe.

There are four VAR referees chosen from Mauritius, South Africa, Morocco, and Egypt. The following nations were chosen for the technical instructors and physical trainers: Zimbabwe, Burundi, Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal, Morocco, and Djibouti.

The 2023 AFCON finals, which are scheduled to take place from Jan. 13 to Feb. 11, 2024, will feature 24 nations vying for the championship, including Nigeria’s Super Eagles.

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