The Premier Soccer League (PSL) matches have begun. That means referees should be up to scratch.
With matches coming quick and fast after a long lay off break, referee Abongile Tom is adamant that he is up to the standard of the game mentally and physically.
The Nyanga-based soccer referee has been in workshops and attending physical training.
But he has never sat on his laurel while he had a chance to be home; he took to the training field all by himself.
At times he takes his colleagues to train harder and prepare for the coming of games. The former PSL referee know very well that the level of game he is refereeing means not taking things for granted.
Tom took time off his busy schedule to speak to Vukani about the challenges of refereeing in empty stadiums and the readiness and mental and physical fitness.
“We have physical instructors that are appointed by Safa that also work with Caf and Fifa so help us with preparation of fitness. There are off season problems and in season programmes when we are active. We have two workshops, pre-season where we do video analysis and do changes and amendment of the law, physical training. We also have a mid-season workshop to see what it is that we can work on, how to adjust for the half part of the season and how we can go forward as a referee fraternity, ” he told Vukani.
He has just returned from a pre-season workshop, which he said was crucial for him and others. But he is a believer of fitness and advises referees to always train. “Fitness is not only physical but you need mental strength at the same time, those help with concentration in order to follow play. Mental fitness also helps us to study teams and how they play. It is always important for one to stay in the game. Fitness helps a lot,” he advises.
With the global pandemic that has hit us all, he is happy that not only referees have adjusted well but everyone. But he admitted that it was not easy to referees. “Covid19 is a global problem. We were not used to it at first. We were in an unusual situation. It took us by surprise but we had to strategise and get solutions as to how best we can overcome it. But life itself is a challenge. In the beginning it was difficult but the more we learned about it and the more we worked under it, we had solutions. It was clear that the more we work under it and its existence the more we can overcome it.:
Refereeing is not an easy career and every year there are new referees coming to the fore.
He has a word for them: “My advice would be to work hard and stay committed. Refereeing is a patient career. It is not an easy career and journey but with hard work, one will go places. They must always be ready and not let disappointment hinder their career. Have dreams to referees in the highest standard like Caf tournaments and Fifa. If you do not have those dreams you are setting yourself up too short,” said the referee who is much respected in the refereeing fraternity.
The PSL games are all starting this weekend and many will be keeping an eye on referees.