COSAFA is delighted to announce that it will be sending a team of match officials to the Tokyo Olympic Games later this year in another sign of the excellent work being conducted in the region to develop a talent pool of referee and assistants.
South African referee Victor Gomes has been selected by FIFA to participate at the Games in Japan, along with assistant referees Arsenio Marengula (Mozambique) and Souru Phats’oane (Lesotho).
“It confirms the development work we are doing with our referees in the region,” says Felix Tangawarima, the COSAFA Referees Manager who is also a member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Referees Committee and a FIFA Technical Instructor.
“We started with these match officials in the Under-17s and so it is really heart-warming to see how they have grown through the effort we have put into them, but also their own hard work to always want to improve and do better.
“It is a great achievement for us as a zone and, like I said, it is very pleasing to be reaping the benefits of the development programme that we started.” Tangawarima says it is not only the male referees who are excelling in the region though, but several female match officials are making their mark, including in the men’s game.
“We had referee Akhona Makalima [from South Africa] who went to the CAF Under-20 Cup of Nations and did very well alongside Celso Alvacao [from Mozambique].
“In 2019 we had assistant referee Diana Chikotesha [from Zambia], who officiated at the CAF Under-23 Cup of Nations that served as the qualifiers for the Olympics. She also did very well. At the CHAN [African Nations Championship] we also had assistant referee Bernadettar Kwimbira [from Malawi].”
“All of these match officials have shown themselves to be extremely capable. In fact, we probably had a 50-50 split of male and female match officials in the Under-17 and Under-20 zonal qualifiers last year and in many instances I thought our female referees outshine their male counterparts.”
Tangawarima admits the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for his department but says with the use of technology and the development of more local instructors, they have weathered the storm.
“We are being constantly in touch with all our referees in this difficult year, keeping tabs on their progress and what they have been doing,” he says.
“We cannot say we have not been affected as a region by this pandemic, but it gave us some ways to think outside the box in terms of how we continue to help referees and keep them up to date in this new normal.
“We have been doing a lot of online courses with referees and instructors, but also concentrated on developing local instructors in many areas. With the restrictions on cross-border movement, this makes sense as they are then able to be face-to-face with their local match officials to work one-on-one.
“I must say, I am very grateful to the COSAFA secretariat for the support that they have given my department in this regard.”
As for the immediate future, Tangawarima says the aim is to develop referees in Beach Soccer and Futsal, with COSAFA hoping to stage tournaments in those two codes this year.
“It is an area where we are a little bit behind, mainly because we have not been holding tournaments in these two areas. “But now I am organising a five-day course for these areas, where we will be assisted by an instructor from FIFA, as well as our local instructors. We need to get this aspect up and running to make sure we are ready for our tournaments.”