Ghanaian referees are being overly scapegoated, but the way forward would be to incorporate technology into our game, writes Pulse Sports' Kwaku Anno-Kumi.
The former has a record 24 Ghana Premier League titles as compared to 20 for Accra Hearts of Oak. The game was much anticipated because the week 23 game which was initially set to take place on the 16th of July,2017 needed to be postponed after Kotoko suffered a fatal accident on their way back from a game against Inter Allies.
There was a lot of talk and euphoria due to the sentimental bit on how Kumasi Asante Kotoko's return to the field of play was going to pan out. There was also a worry as to whether Kotoko were psychologically prepared for the game, but that test was passed. Another concern was if Kotoko were going to show some sort of rustiness or show nimble legs as they had not been in action for a long while compared to their Accra-based counterparts. That test was passed as Kotoko, as matter of fact, managed to actually dominate certain parts of the game. Another fear that a number of fans and the press generally had was if indeed the fans will turn out in their numbers. That test was also passed as the fans came in their numbers.
The biggest anticipation, however, was the controversy the referee was going to cause after the game transpired and if indeed he could officiate a game of such magnitude. Referee Dally Gagba did not pass that test as his general control of the game was not up to task. A lot of bad calls went against both sides and the game proved to be very physical as there were altercations between Hearts defender Vincent Atingah and Kotoko Striker Saddick Adams.
The most controversial talking point was the penalty call made by this newly infamous Referee Gagba where the ball was hit into the penalty from the left side of Kotoko’s attack to hit midfielder Leonard Tawiah. Gagba had to make the decision and called for a penalty. Saddick Adams converted from the spot kick to send the home fans into a frenzy.
The referee has since come under immense criticism after the game, and it has been almost always been like this, with Ghanaian referees being scapegoated and subjected to some distasteful comments in times of deficiency. At the just ended FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia there was a reform introduced known as the Video Assistance Referee. This reform was put in motion due to the general idea that referees do not have the advantage of watching a split second incident on replay.
The general public was able to lay the claim that the foul taken against Leonard Tawiah might not have been legitimate after they watched the replay time and time again - something Referee Gagba was unable to do within that split second. Another interesting element which is surpassing everybody is that video angles can be deceptive. A typical example is that of the penalty awarded to Accra Hearts of Oak in the reverse fixture between the two sides. Sukah made a call of Kotoko defender Ahmed Adams handling the ball around the 83rd minute of that game. It was converted by Vincent Atingah which saw Hearts win the game.
On the 22nd of March the FA video evidence did show that Samuel Sukah’s call was indeed a right one. The truth is Dally Gagba should not be seen as the culprit in this scenario but a victim. Standards in video coverage of various matches, if not dropped, have stalled over the years. In the early 2000’s highlights of Ghana Premier league games were easy to come by. All you needed was probably to tune in to GTV or TV3 by Monday evening and you would have highlights of more than one premier league available to the cherished viewers.
It is quite baffling that in 2017 we now have only have highlights of just one game every week and one angle to every incident that transpires. The point is that video coverage as a basis of development of football is lagging behind and there is the need to ensure a reform which requires top notch technology.
The precarious situation the Ghana Premier League finds itself will be difficult to maneuver out of because 10 years of football coverage has been entrusted on Star Times, which is a broadcast sponsor based in China. According to credible sources, the equipment used in broadcasting the league games are from a local partner and this Chinese sponsor has not been able to ship equipment on time to sponsor for efficient coverage.
Technological advancement in every aspect of life is very vital and with football it’s very dangerous. Although referees may need to be a bit professional and alert when handling games, to err is human and Referee Sukah and Dally Gagba have fallen victim to that. The league needs a lot of advancement when it comes to video coverage to increase the standards of officiating and also give the league some credibility.
Video Assistance Referee is needed in Ghana but for starters improving technology in our league when it comes to media coverage will indeed take as one step further from where we find ourselves. Ghanaian referees are not culprits but victims to low standards.
Anytime a referee makes a bad decision do not be quick to make allegations and criticize for you may not know when you may be on the receiving end. John Chapter 8 verse 7 says in the Bible “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the stone first”. Nobody is perfect in our field of work and spheres of life and you might be just a victim of circumstances and standards you find yourself in.