African refereeing is in danger, says Naji Jouini

Khaled Abdel-Moneim (Al-Ahram Al-Riyadi), Monday 22 Nov 2010

Tunisian former referee and former member of the CAF referees’ committee, Naji Jouini highlights the African refereeing crises, pointing out bias and corruption.

How do you evaluate the African refereeing these days?
I’m not satisfied at all and I’m responsible for these claims. African refereeing is going downhill and it will go further with the absence of regulations and criteria in the referees’ selection for matches – especially the crucial ones. I even conveyed this feeling to Issa Hayatou (CAF president) and told him that African refereeing is in danger and needs a long time before it can get back on the right track.

A lot of troubles happened during the semi-final clash between Al-Ahly and Esperance with Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey at the centre, how did you perceive this crisis?
It’s a case of selection. In my opinion the referees who officiated both matches, in Egypt and Tunisia, weren’t up for such events and the choice of these names was really suspicious.

Recently you had a meeting with Hayatou did you discuss the issue?
It wasn’t a real “meeting”. We spoke generally about football and referees in Africa and I gave him some notes on how we could improve after a recent bout of poor officiating. He listened very carefully and I noticed he was quite anxious to make some important changes.  

You resigned from the CAF after revealing a big bribery case, what happened exactly?
I discovered a suspicious relationship between a referee and a chief of a football association during the U17 African Championship; I won’t mention any names here. I did my duty as a CAF member and followed up the case but it caused me many problems with some people inside the CAF. And after four years in the African governing body I felt I did my job as best I could and retired in 2008 because I had nothing more to give.

Have the involved persons been sanctioned?
I only cared to reveal the case parties, although I was quite sure that the case will be closed without completing all the investigations and that’s why I filed a report to the FIFA.  

It was rumoured that your persistence and defiance in this case led to your exit.
I followed my conscience and had to fight corruption. I never regretted any decision I made inside the CAF and I proved I was right even if my stance was against some people's will. 

Does this mean that there were clashes inside the CAF?
There were people who led long fights within the CAF but they only amounted to three, two of whom are totally corrupt while the third is well on his way. They are the reason of the deterioration of African refereeing over the past two years and it will worsen. 

Does Issa Hayatou know about this?
Hayatou knew every single detail and he understood my position.

Is it true that you are a candidate to become the next chief of the referees’ committee?
I only heard about it in the media but nobody spoke to me about it. 

Does that mean that your relationship with refereeing in the continent is over?
Not at all I’m very close to African referees and the governing bodies in several countries. Additionally, I have my job in the Union of North African Federations.


Ecxerpts from an interview published in Al-Ahram Al-Reyadi  (sports weekly) on November 3, 2010.

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