ONCE again, no Tanzanian referee was selected to officiate the African Cup of Nations finals last month in Gabon, despite the presence of a good number of them with International Federation of Association Football ( FIFA) badges.
Humiliating and country shaming as it looks, neither the local football governing body (TFF), nor clubs seem to seriously consider it a big problem.
For more than three decades now, local referees have been missing opportunities to officiate matches at both continental and international levels, as opposed to the past situation when the likes of Hafidh Ally, Gratian Matovu or Omar Abdulkadir excelled in international circus. Today, the local referees are scarcely considered, even in soccer matches staged at the regional levels like Kagame Cup or Senior Challenge Cup, and nobody sees it as a big challenge.
The answer to the problem is short and clear, the local referees have lost a trust after being heaped with voluminous cases of corruptions. It does not mean all of them are corrupt, but it is not easy to clean them of the past corruption scandals that ruined their reputation and that of their country. Even today when our premier league has grown to attract foreign coaches and players, it is hard to convince a soccer fan that our league is run in open, just and clean refereeing.
We have discovered that the majority soccer fans even believe that corrupt referees have been behind the success of the so called ‘soccer giants’ due to their powerful fan base and financial power. It is sad that a team can play better than its opponent for 90 minutes, but still not leave the field as a winner just because of poor ‘unfair’ refereeing.
Corruption destroys the essence of football. The willful violation of sporting values, such as fairness and open competitions, eliminate the central meaning of the sport. The reputation of football is falling, potential athletes are dismissing opportunities and sponsors are decreasing their assistance.
The aggregate damage caused by corruption in football is barely calculable. Despite this, relevant football authorities in the country still deny, or at least downplay, the threat of ‘corrupt refereeing’.
It is important now organs such as Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) step in to launch criminal investigations into these malpractices in Tanzania and those found guilty booked to restore the image of the loved game.