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Match officials gear up for 2024 season

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By Lovemore Boora

THE ZIFA Referees’ Committee chairperson, Norman Matemera, said they are geared up for the upcoming 2024 Premier Soccer League which is set to kick off on February 24.

The Committee held a four-day season opener refresher course for 100 referees and match commissioners at Hillside Teachers’ College in Bulawayo  from February 1-4 .The refresher course content covered the practical side of refereeing where they were working on the application of the laws of the game.The participants were shown videos of modern-day refereeing and the video clips showed areas where the referees and match commissioners needed improvement.

The refresher course also covered movement and the gate concept.

“We were working on movement, especially on penalty area incidents. In refereeing, the penalty area is the big priority, so we emphasised on the gate concept,” said Matemera. 

‘‘By gate concept, we mean depending on where action is in the penalty area, the referee must be at a certain position to be able to clearly see what is happening. The gate concept helps referees have a better viewing angle and proximity to play in the penalty area.

‘‘We also addressed the movement styles on the field of play, change of speed and explosivity.”

Players were invited and the refresher course participants’ performance was assessed in a normal game situation.  

The committee was impressed by the dedication, will and commitment of the participants and they promised that soccer enthusiasts would see a different performance this season.

Matemera went on to state that though they have enough referees to cover all matches, this year their emphasis is on quality and not quantity. Eleven female referees and assistants will be among the match officials who will be officiating in the upcoming season. He encouraged female referees to be at their best form so that they will be spotted and invited to officiate at international competitions like AFCON.

The ZIFA Referees’ Committee chairman went on to clarify why Zimbabwe referees were not invited to officiate at AFCON games.

“As you are aware ZIFA has been under ban. Therefore, it means we had no referees on the international panel for the previous two years. Selection of referees for such tournaments is not a one-day event, it takes time,” explained Matemera. 

“The selection process starts soon after the previous tournament, and that’s when we got banned in 2021. 

“This means our referees were not in a position to be trained and prepared for AFCON. Technically, our referees are just about 10 days on the international panel, so they don’t stand a chance against those who have been prepared for this year’s AFCON for the past two years. Let’s forget about this year’s AFCON and start to work on the next AFCON,” 

Matemera went on to stress that it is very important for football stakeholders to understand the laws of the game because, at times, people get emotional and end up attacking match officials who will be spot-on in their officiating. He encouraged teams to make formal complaints whenever they are not happy with match officiating rather than just complaining.

“In the event that our teams are not happy with the officiating, we call upon them to come to us any day, any time and make formal complaints. For your information, on most games last year where journalists, coaches and supporters made a lot of noise, there were no official complaints made to us.”

He went on to say that his organisation sanctioned certain match officials who officiated badly in different ways and stated that they conduct refresher courses for referees every four months to keep them updated with the laws of the game.

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