Johannesburg - The two-week Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) Cup tournament kicks off in Durban on May 25, with referees from the region having the perfect platform to showcase their understanding of the laws of the beautiful game.
Southern Africa has a healthy reputation in producing good whistlemen and women, with three of the four referees that will handle semi-final matches in the CAF Champions League hailing from that region.
Botswana’s Joshua Bondo will be in the middle when Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca host South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday, while Helder Martins de Carvalho of Angola will take charge of the return fixture on May 4.
South African, Victor Gomes, will have the whistle for what is likely to be a highly charged second leg between TP Mazembe of DR Congo and title holders Esperance of Tunisia in Lubumbashi, in the Congolese country also on May 4.
Janny Sikazwe (Zambia) was also in charge of the quarterfinal second leg in Lubumbashi in the last round.
Martins is the perfect example of a referee who has been groomed through Cosafa tournaments and is now at the top of his craft.
“I was given the 2009 Cosafa Cup final, which was quite a surprise as I was a young referee, but it was a great experience for me,” Martins said.
“Nobody knew me, I was very young at that time. I think people were a little bit scared about how I would perform. Me also, I was very, very scared, it was a big challenge. But it went well and it remains probably my best memory as a referee.”
“The following year there was the African Under-17 Championships and I did the final of that as well,” added Martins.
“After that, I was promoted for the Under-17 World Cup in Mexico, two matches. I have moved up from there.”
Martins said he has no doubt that some of Africa’s leading match officials, both male and female, are coming out of the Cosafa region.
“Cosafa is doing a great job developing new referees,” he said.
“Every year, we see new talents in the Under-17 and Under-20 tournaments, and also, we have three or four new referees in the seniors.”
Martins, Gomes, Bondo, Sikazwe, Jackson Pavaza (Namibia) and Bernard Camille (Seychelles) are the referees who have been chosen by the Confederation of African Football to attend a preparatory course ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, while a further six assistant referees from the region will also attend.
On the women’s front, Gladys Lengwe (Zambia) will officiate at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France in June-July, while Bernadettar Kwimbira (Malawi), Lidwine Rakotozafinoro (Madagascar) and Queency Victoire (Mauritius) will act as assistant referees.
Added to that, Jerome Damon, the hugely-respected former South African referee, has recently been appointed as FIFA’s Referee Development Officer for Africa.
Damon has already emerged as the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) training guru for Africa and headed several seminars on the new technology for referees from around the continent.
Much of this has been possible under the watchful and expert eye of Cosafa Referees’ Manager, Felix Tangawarima, a Zimbabwean who is also a member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Referees Committee and a FIFA technical instructor.
“One of Cosafa’s strong objectives is development,” Tangawarima said. “As a region, we are very proud that the long-term referee development programme has been yielding very positive results year in (and) year out.” - Nampa/ANA