Sports Minister tasks Nigerian referees on elevating professional standards

Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh, has urged Nigerian referees to enhance their professionalism to increase participation in FIFA and CAF competitions.

During an interactive session on Wednesday with participants of the 2024 FIFA Member Association Refereeing Development Course, the minister expressed disappointment over the limited roles Nigerian referees play in international competitions due to not meeting performance standards set by FIFA and CAF.

Describing the sidelining of Nigerian referees as unacceptable, Senator Enoh pledged the current administration’s commitment to reversing this trend.

He highlighted that his engagement with referees is part of broader efforts to identify and address the root causes of this issue.

Senator Enoh recalled initiating discussions with referees and key sports stakeholders early in his tenure after learning that no Nigerian referee was deemed qualified to officiate in the recent CAF African Cup of Nations.

He found this situation unacceptable and thus began a series of engagements with Referee Associations, the NFF, and other stakeholders. Despite these efforts, no Nigerian referees are listed for the upcoming AFCON, a situation he termed “a shame.”

He challenged elite referees to elevate their commitment to professionalism, assuring them of the government’s support in ending this neglect.

Responding to the minister, FIFA Technical Instructor Mr. Felix Tangwarinma thanked Senator Enoh for his dedication to the development of Nigerian referees.

He noted that Nigerian referees once performed well in international competitions but a lack of continuity created a gap when experienced officials retired. The ongoing training aims to bridge this gap.

Mr. Tangwarinma pointed out a significant issue: no Nigerian referee is currently certified to officiate with VAR technology, a requirement for FIFA and CAF competitions.

He emphasized the need for VAR training for Nigerian referees to meet the hours stipulated by international bodies.

Highlighting the high cost of VAR equipment, Mr. Tangwarinma called on the sports ministry for financial support, as the NFF cannot fund the required equipment for the national league.

He suggested that, in the interim, Nigeria could send referees for VAR training in countries like Morocco and Tunisia while working to acquire the necessary resources domestically.

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