Nigerian referees to get VAR training after years of AFCON absence

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has confirmed plans to train Nigerian referees in the use of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) and other technologies.

While VAR technology has permeated the game across the globe, it is yet to be deployed in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).

Referees in the country have also received no training in the use of the technology, with Nigerian officials snubbed for international tournaments for almost two decades now.

Nigerian referees to get VAR training after years of AFCON snub
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Also damning is the fact that the last time a Nigerian referee officiated at the AFCON was in 2006 when the tournament was hosted by Egypt.

Nigerian referees to get VAR training

However, a Board Member representing the NFF in the South-South region, Nse Udofot Essien, has now revealed that plans are underway to train referees in the country on VAR use.

According to him, NFF president Ibrahim Gusau has already held consultations with CAF and FIFA to ensure that Nigerian referees improve to meet international standards.

He explained that the issue of VAR is currently a priority to end the years of Nigerian referees being snubbed for continental and international assignments.

“On the issue of VAR and advanced technology. The President has promised that our referees are going to be trained on it,” Ibrahim Gusau said.

“Consultations are ongoing with CAF and FIFA to ensure our men are at par with their colleagues in global best practices.”

No Nigerian referee at AFCON 2024

Meanwhile, there was no Nigeria referee at the just-ended Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) in the Ivory Coast.

Although the Super Eagles put up a gallant performance when they reached the final of the tournament, the fact that there was no Nigerian referee there was a low for the country.

By contrast, several referees from North Africa were selected by CAF for the tournament, with Algeria and Egypt having three centre referees each.

Morocco, Mauritania, and Mauritius also had two each, while Ghana, Gabon, Benin, Congo and Somalia had their officials selected.

Nigeria, though, had no representation among the referees selected for the AFCON, with the poor level of officiating in the country’s leagues cited as the reason.

CAF urges Nigerian referees to improve

In explaining the consistent snub of Nigerian referees for tournaments, CAF’s Head of Refereeing, Desire Noumandiez Doue, suggested that they were simply not good enough.

He noted that although the country boasted some decent officials, only the best on the continent are considered for CAF tournaments.

Noumandiez Doue further urged Nigerian referees to improve their performances in order to increase their chances of being picked for subsequent competitions.

“You have good referees in Nigeria, but this is our message to them, they need to come to the CAF competition, especially to the AFCON,” he said during the AFCON in Ivory Coast.

“We don’t need good referees; good referees are for the MAs, and good referees are for the zone, in CAF we need the best, so Nigerian referees are good, but they can still improve if they need assistance.

“They need to do more to be among the best because the selection has been started for one year and a half, so we are in a continuous process of scouting, evaluating, and selecting.”

It’s now been 18 years since a Nigerian official refereed an AFCON game. The country also had just one assistant referee selected for the 2021 edition.  

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Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an African sports writer, with bylines on DW, Al Jazeera, World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.