In a groundbreaking move that signals a new era for Nigerian football, FIFA has placed 30 match officials from Nigeria on its list for the 2024 football calendar. This announcement not only signifies a major achievement for Nigerian referees, but it also serves as a testament to the country’s commitment to excellence in sports officiating.
In response to the news, Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh expressed his delight, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and celebrating the achievements of Nigerian sports officials.
Senator Enoh is at the forefront of a strong commitment to enhance Nigeria’s sports profile. His visionary leadership and passion has been instrumental in building the nation’s standing in the world of football.
Nigeria, known for its passionate football culture, has long been a breeding ground for talented players, but the recognition of its match officials on the global stage is a significant achievement, especially after recent snubs in continental and global showpieces. The placement of 30 Nigerian referees and assistants on FIFA’s list speaks volumes about the country’s dedication to producing high-caliber football officials.
In the aftermath of CAF’s snub of Nigeria in its list of 85 match officials for training for the forthcoming AFCON, Minister of Sports Development, Senator Enoh immediately called for an emergency meeting with the Nigerian Football Federation on the 15th of September for drastic measures to be taken. In the meeting the Minister stated that he was treating officiating in Nigeria as an emergency and everything possible will be done to resuscitate it.
Before the start of the league season,, he also met with the Nigeria Referees Association (NRA), NFF Referees Committee and voiced the need to reposition the country’s ratings through better officiating. He sounded a strong warning that any referee found wanting will be immediately shown the exit door.
On October 6th, Enoh held a strategic meeting with the executive members of the NFF and NRA to discuss referee education and development, the need for recommitment and avenues to improve ratings. This was a follow-up to the earlier engagement with key stakeholders. Again, he reiterated what must be done urgently and deliberately, in conjunction with all stakeholders, to rebuild the reputation of match officials. The next in the series was another parley on October 11th, on the state of Nigerian football. The domestic league, national teams, officiating, grassroots, etc.
While it is still early days, there is a need to modestly celebrate the small wins, as the engines continue to work, to ensure Nigerian officials gain a stronger reputation on the global football map. The league has recorded some impressive results that calls for saluting the performance of officials. Kano Pillars scored 5 away from home, Plateau United scoring 3 in Kaduna, modest teams Like Doma and Remo doing impressively well without getting blighted by the traditional big guns, amongst others.
One of the key mantras Senator Enoh is championing, is the comprehensive training and development programs for referees across the country. Recognizing the crucial role referees play in the integrity of the game, he has consistently advocated for investments in their education and skill enhancement.
As a new chapter opens for Nigerian sports, he highlighted the government’s support for sports development initiatives, ensuring that Nigeria remains a force to be reckoned with in the global sports arena. In a week where Nigerian stars (Osimhen, Oshoala, Nnadozie, the Super Falcons) shone on the continent, the country is on the cusp of greatness.