Referees the cause of football violence - Johnson

Chairman of the Security Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Chief Effiong Johnson has taken a swipe at Nigerian referees particularly those officiating in the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) and Nigeria National League (NNL), describing their attitude as “shameful” and blaming most of them for the increasing cases of football violence in the country.

The NFF board Chairman of Chairmen’s comments came shortly after the Division C NNL match between Akwa Starlets and Gray International played at the U. J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar on Wednesday which saw the Akwa Ibom State side win through a 93rd minute strike from left-full-back Nicholas Joseph. Despite the slim victory, Johnson felt the result should have been different but for the ineptitude of the match officials.

“It’s a big shame that referees are taking the game in the country backward. What we have seen today clearly confirms that. The officiating was very poor. Nigerians can now see the reason why violence occurs in our stadia. Our referees are no doubt the major cause.

“From what I saw in the stadium, the home fans might probably have descended on the match officials if the score line were different. The officiating was terrible. If referees do what is right, supporters will not be pushed to commit violence."

In a game that drew lots of anxiety and tension, Centre Referee Ukaegbu Jonathan from Abia State and 1st Assistant Referee S. C. Odajiri from Anambra State were particularly fingered by the home supporters who constantly faulted most of their calls particularly in the dying minutes and accused them of being incompetent, an observation Johnson was in concurrence with.

“The action of referee and his 1st assistant clearly instigated the crowd and I’m sure the NFF will look into such cases. I’ve called the Chairman of the Referees’ Appointment Committee and urged him to charge his team to be more intelligent when appointed referees for matches. If we must end violence, we must caution our referees,” Johnson said.
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