John Owan-Enoh, Minister of Sports Development, has expressed displeasure over the non-inclusion of Nigerian referees in the list of match officials for the 2023 AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire.
On Thursday in Abuja, Enoh reacted to the list of match officials released by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) ahead of the tournament scheduled for January 2024.
He said given Nigeria’s football pedigree and population, the country should not be in such a predicament that is now becoming a trend.
The minister promised to engage with relevant stakeholders, such as the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the Nigeria Referees Association (NRA), to reverse the trend.
“At the last AFCON (2021), Nigeria only had one assistant referee listed amongst the match officials. Two years prior, we didn’t have any centre referee too.
“Going into the next AFCON (2023), we still won’t have any Nigerian officials; I am going to interrogate this matter.
“We will have engagements with the NFF, the Referees’ Association, and the League Board because we need to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
Enoh noted that without prejudice to the outcome, the development calls for a reflection of the institutional setting within which sports are being administered in the country.
He reiterated his commitment to ensuring that sports thrive in Nigeria to stand tall in the comity of nations.
On Tuesday, CAF unveiled 85 referees, comprising centre referees, assistant referees, VARs, and technical instructors, for the 2023 AFCON, without any Nigerian official included.
Egypt and Algeria, in North Africa, have three names listed in the centre referees list, followed by Morocco, Mauritania, and Mauritius, each with two.
Other nations on the list include Gabon, Ghana, Benin, Congo, Somalia, etc.
The assistant referees list includes two representatives from Morocco, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Algeria, Egypt, South Africa, and lesser-known nations like Comoros, Djibouti, Burkina Faso, and Sao Tome and Principe.
Four VAR referees were chosen from Mauritius, South Africa, Morocco, and Egypt. The following nations were selected for the technical instructors and physical trainers: Zimbabwe, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Morocco, and Djibouti.
The 2023 AFCON finals, from January 13 to February 11, 2024, will feature 24 nations vying for the championship, including Nigeria’s Super Eagles.