TOP Zimbabwe referee Norman Matemera was left a distraught man after perilously coming close to securing a place on the panel of match officials for the 2018 African Nations Championships before a pulled muscle cruelly ruled him out of contention. Matemera was part of a cast of top referees who converged for an elite course which was used by the Confederation of African Football on November 27 to December 2 to select the officials who will handle matches at the CHAN tournament in Morocco next month. But after reportedly doing so excellently well, including posting his best time ever in sprints, cruel fate dealt the Harare referee a blow as he left Cairo, Egypt a disappointed man after pulling a muscle.
Although Matemera later completed the one manadatory 10 rounds of jogging during the course, he had already incurred the injury, which medical experts later advised CAF t would need at least five to six weeks to heal. By then, the CHAN tournament would have roared into life.
The 35 year-old Matemera said although he was disappointed, he remains optimistic that he will get another chance to be considered by CAF for a major tournament. Matemera’s injury also means that Zimbabwe would have to once again contend with having to watch as referees from other countries such as Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Namibia, Zambia, South Africa, Rwanda and Ghana provide officials for the CHAN tournament.
“Obviously I am very disappointed, but I also understand that it is part of the game. “I was disappointed, but nonetheless there is nothing I can do when the body has snapped, but there is room for next time and I am now seeing a physiotherapist as part of my recovery programme. I must say though that we learnt a lot at the course and as Zimbabwean referees, we need to be recognised and we always discuss this among ourselves and urge each other as we aspire to have one of us on the CAF Elite A panel,’’ Matemera said.
ZIFA Referees Committee vice-chairman Gladmore Muzambi said although they were concerned with the absence of Zimbabwean officials at such tournaments like CHAN and the African Cup of Nations, they were “slowly making some progress’’ with the current crop of match officials. Not even Harare referee Ruzive Ruzive, who has won back-to-back Castle Lager Premiership Referee of the Year titles could make the cut. Instead, it was Ruzive’s Harare compatriot Matemera, who came closest to being selected.
Matemera is also the only Zimbabwean on the CAF Elite B panel, which enables him to be considered for such competitions like the CHAN tournament. FIFA and CAF instructor Felix Tangawarima last night commended Matemera for his showing at the course in Cairo and felt the Harare policeman was “just unlucky’’ to pick up an injury.
“Norman got injured during the 40m sprints fitness test. He pulled his muscle and was brave enough to run, complete and pass the fitness test. For this course, Norman was well prepared. During the sprints, he clocked his best time ever and I think we also need to commend the local physical coach Alfred Zindove, whom I had requested to take Norman through some preparation programme.
“It was evident that Norman was in his best condition. Unfortunately, he pulled his muscle. His theory tests and contribution in class were good. And from the expert advise, he would need five to six weeks to fully recover and some time again to gain his full fitness. As this is a top CAF tournament where you don’t take any chance, the injury ruled him out.
“It’s a big setback to Norman, but he is not the first one to go through this unfortunate injury. Just before the tournament, even some top players have missed top tournaments through injuries of this magnitude. I, however, urge him and all other match officials to continue working hard as there are great opportunities ahead of them,’’ Tangawarima said.
Muzambi felt that his committee just needed to speed up progress with which they groom referees. “It is not to do with the standards, it is to do with the progression of our referees along the ladder of CAF competitions. We have two panels in CAF, Elite A category, which deals with the Africa Cup of Nations and Elite B category.
“We don’t have anyone in Elite A because no one has scaled to that level. The highest we have in Elite B is Norman Matemera. And the referees in this category officiate at tournaments such as CHAN. Norman was invited for a selection course to officiate CHAN games in Egypt recently, and the week-long course tests physical fitness, theory and so forth. Unfortunately, he didn’t succeed. I am told he got injured during the fitness tests, so he will have to wait for six weeks for a retest, but for CHAN that is too late. That’s the situation we find ourselves in.
“We cannot develop referees overnight, we must accept we lost referees’ development in the past six years, when training (at the association) was not properly structured to equip our referees with modern trends,’ said Muzambi.
Muzambi said his committee would continue to empower the local match officials through FIFA programmes. “When we came in last year, we had to deal with the material which was there, but gradually it is coming up. We are hoping that through training and identifying other young referees, which has already started, we will be able to have our referees elevated through good performances as observed by international match commissioners.
“But I must hasten to say there is no short cut to referees development, it will take time, but we are making progress. We have to up our training of these referees so that we capacitate them to be able to handle games according to modern trends,” Muzambi said.
The referees’ boss also spoke about the controversy that has stalked Ruzive’s selection as the best official for 2017. Many neutrals felt that other top referees such as Nomore Musundire and Matemera deserved the award this year. But Muzambi differed with the referees committee’s critics.
“My observation is that I think people are judging Ruzive unfairly. The award is an annual award, so in 2017 do you recall any game in which he handled and had problems. The criteria we use is reports from the match commissioners. We have 38 match commissioners throughout the country that observe these referees during games and write reports similar to CAF reports. These reports are marked out of 10, and all the Referees Committee does is to add those marks and the person with the highest mark wins the award. “Nomore Musundire was very close as well as Luckson Mhara. Our judgments are not subjective but very technical,” said Muzambi.