AFCON 2023: Minister Expresses Displeasure About Referee Snub

By Lekan Sowande, Abuja.

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The Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Enoh, has stated that the snubbing of Nigerian match officials for 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) duties by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) represents an embarrassment that must be treated with every sense of emergency.

In a meeting held with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), Nigerian Referees Association (NRA) and the board of the Nigerian Premier Football League (NPFL), the Minister stated that for a nation as big as Nigeria and its rich football history, the development is not befitting and it must not be allowed to lie fallow.

“With CAF releasing the names and nationalities of 85 match officials for training towards AFCON 2023, it is embarrassing that we did not have a single Nigerian on the list,” Minister Enoh said

“As Sports Minister, I see this development as an emergency that we need to respond to as quickly as possible. It gets even worse that two years ago, we only had one Nigerian official, who was an assistant referee and two years prior, we had no centre referee,” Enoh added.

“We keep getting confronted by this embarrassing situation and we have allowed it to reoccur, by doing nothing on the responsibilities within our volition and the responsibilities outside our volition. Therefore, it is important to interrogate this matter, because it is a real blow to the progress of our sports.”

The Minister said that sports means a lot to President Bola Tinubu, as well as millions of Nigerians. He noted that the President has shown purpose in all areas, including the international image and representation of Nigeria.

As the ministry sought for a solution to the matter, the minister opened the room for discussions with different stakeholder associations present at the meeting.

The Referees’ Association was led by its chairman, Sani Zubairu, the board of the NPFL was led by Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye, while the NFF was led by its deputy secretary general, Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme.

The meeting attendance included ex Presidential Special Adviser on Sports, Daniel Amokachi, Chairman Lobi Stars FC and ex international, Dominic Iorfa and Chairman Sokoto State Football Association, Mohammed Nasir Saidu.

Deliberations will continue towards finding a lasting solution to the issue, with actionable points for execution.

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