For the first time in history, the crème de la crème of Nigeria’s football referees have congregated for their annual convention in the southeast of the country and they were hosted in the Heartland of the east, Owerri, Imo state.
The meeting, which was held from the 2nd to 4th of November at the Range Hotel, provided ample time for the referees to deliberate on critical issues, discourse delicate matters concerning their welfare and how to improve the interpretation of the sports, football.
Declaring the event open, deputy governor of Imo state Prince Eze Madumere who represented his principal, governor Rochas Okorocha recalled his days as a ball boy in the late 70s and shared some memorable events to buttress the importance of the referees to the game of football.
Speaking to newsmen after the opening ceremony, President of the Nigerian (Football) Referees Association (NRA) Alhaji Tade Azeez noted that this year’s assembly have afforded them the opportunity to carry out a post mortem of last season’s football performances and also look at ways to improve officiating the game.
“It was a very good season. My men did very well and I know it was a better season than the previous ones. There was an improvement because we recorded less controversies, quality referring, lot of away wins and draws up till the last day of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL),” Azeez remarked.
On the events making the rounds in the assembly, he had this to say: “it has been fruitful. We have been giving reports of a particular year, all which transpired in the year under review. We have told our self the truth: where we have done well and where we have erred and how best to carry out our duties especially the aspect of training and re-training our referees. Our concern also lies on developing budding talents who will spring up to take the place of out going referees.”
The supremo of the referee body also spoke on the security in match centres and how they affect the officials on matchdays: “the responsibility of providing sufficient security lies with the host Football Association, so our deliberations have been with the Football Federation where we have had series and will still meet with the NFF security chief to make sure we harp on the security challenges.”
He also noted that clubs should keep on educating their fans and supporters in order to avoid and prevent unnecessary provocation.
Delegates from the 36 states always attend the annual meeting of the referees.