The absence of Nigerian referees on the official match officials list for the 2023 AFCON scheduled for Cote d’Ivoire in January 2024 upset John Owan-Enoh, Minister of Sports Development.
Mr Owan-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 that given Nigeria’s football pedigree and population, the country should not be in such a predicament, which has become a trend.
The minister promised to hold engagements with relevant stakeholders, such as the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), and Nigeria Referees Association (NRA), among others, to reverse 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 referees too.
“Going into the next AFCON (2023), we still won’t have any Nigerian officials. I am going to interrogate this matter.
“We will have engagements with the NFF, the Referees’ Association, and the League Board because we need to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
Mr Owan-Enoh noted that, without prejudice to the outcome, the development calls for a reflection of the institutional setting within which sports is administered in the country.
He reiterated his commitment to ensuring that sports across all facets thrive in the country, for Nigeria to stand tall in the comity of nations.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that CAF on Tuesday unveiled 85 referees, comprising centre referees, assistant referees, VARs, and technical instructors, for the 2023 AFCON, and no Nigerian official was included.
NAN reports that Egypt and Algeria, both in North Africa, have three names listed in the centre 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. They chose the following nations 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 13 January to 11 February 2024, will feature 24 nations vying for the championship, including Nigeria’s Super Eagles.
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