By Ayodeji OKUNNUGA
Ekiti State Football Association on Sunday, September 20th, started the screening of prospective soccer referees. The screening exercise which is in conjunction with Ekiti State Referees Council kicked off screening in Irepodun Ifelodun local football council.
The event which was held to the delights of many football enthusiasts and stakeholders at Baptist High School, Igede Ekiti, is part of the efforts of Ekiti FA to further develop football in the state.
In his opening address, the chairman of Ekiti State Football Association, Bayo Olanlege who was represented by a board member of the FA, Goboyega Afolabi, explained that the FA embarked on the exercise as one of it’s holistic approach to build capacities across the bodies affiliated with the association in the state.
The FA Boss implored parents, guardians, schools, monarchs, religious bodies and sports loving individuals to drum more support for young boys and girls in their participations in football. Noting that the new generation of referees would have matured just in time to replace the current set of referees who are getting older.
Olanlege also wants increased contributions from females in the game. In his words, “we want you to encourage these our young lads, according to what the referees’ council told us, within the next seven years, they are good to go, they are expected to be at a level to officiate top flight matches in the country and even beyond.
“In Ekiti now, we have just about 3 female football referees and they are based in Ekiti. You know, if we have more female referees, there is no way they won’t have enough matches to officiate among them. It’s more or less a sort of revenue for them,” the ever resourceful football administrator added.
He went ahead to appreciate the Ekiti State Referee’s Council and other key players who have been reliable partners for his administration to steer the ship of development in Ekiti football.
Retired referee Comrade Soji Farotimi, who now serves as match Commissioner, is the coordinator of the screening exercise. He explained that referees play major roles in football, stressing that the brilliance or fault of a referee determines the output of a match.
Comrade Farotimi remarked that refereeing is a financially productive part of the game. While educating the over 40 boys and girls prospective referees in training on some rudiments and ethics of officiating, he cited discipline, concentration, composure, fairness, good knowledge of the rule book, and confidence, as some of the requirements for officiating in football.
Also speaking at the event, the chairman of Ekiti States Sports Council, Dr, Isacc Ayodele extolled the developmental drive of the Ekiti State Football Association under the leadership of Bayo Olanlege. He also urged stakeholders in sports, as well as, government officials to work hand in glove to maximally explore the benefits attached to football in various areas.
A board member of the Ekiti FA, Ilesanmi Fatukasi explained that the initiative was borne out of a robust discussion between the football Association and the bodies of referees with hindsight on the brawls that have ensued during matches in the past.
He expressed optimism that boys and girls selected for the screening, who are expected to be within the ages of 14 and 17 across the 16 football local council in Ekiti will be good representatives of the state when they beome properly trained about the modern trends of the game.
The Chief of Staff to the Executive Chairman of Irepodun/Ifelodun local government, who are the host, Hon. Tobi Ajakaiye expressed delight at the event which he described as a process of building a sustainable football culture in the council and the state in general.