MEN IN BLACK – Destination (Uyo / Yaoundé)

What would sports be like without effective arbitration? Confusion, Chaos, Melee, Skirmish, Disorder – the synonyms can never be exhausted.

In avoidance of such, we have men/women presiding over the game from a neutral point of view and making swift decisions that enforce the rules of the sport, including sportsmanship. They are called Referees.

On August 1, 2017, The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) released appointments of officials for the ongoing 2018 World Cup Qualifiers – Match Day 3 and 4 (Africa series).
Looking at the calendar, quite a few mouthwatering ties, from Dakar (Senegal v Burkina Faso), Libreville (Gabon v Ivory Coast), Kumasi (Ghana v Congo), and Uyo (NIGERIA v CAMEROON).

I surely have given my fixture preference away in CAPS. Unapologetically, the two-legged tie is primarily why this report came to life to profile the men placed in charge of the matches.

Egyptian Ref, Ghead Zaghloul Ibrahim Selim Grisha, has been designated to take charge of this fixture in UYO, on Friday, 1st September 2017.

Grisha, born 29 February 1976, became a FIFA referee in 2008. Excelled in discharging his duties at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations which (Nigeria won defeating Burkina Faso 1-0 in Johannesburg). He also served as at the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

His expertise has made him literally the CENTRE of attraction in some heavyweight fixtures on the continent. Recently, the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match between Zambia’s Chipolopolo and Nigeria’s Super Eagles in Ndola on Sunday, 9th October 2016 which ended (Zambia 1-2 Nigeria).

Gambian, Papa Bakary Gassama will be at the center when the return leg takes place on Monday, 4th September 2017, at the Stade Omnisports, Yaoundé.

Gassama, born 10 February 1979, recognized as FIFA graded in 2007. He’s been to the Olympics, Nations Cup (2012, 2013, 2015), World Cup (2014), He was CAF’s sole referee for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia. His performances make him arguably the first on every lip when the quality conversation about referees in Africa take the front burner.

To Nigerians, he’s no stranger, he was the referee the last time the Super Eagles engaged in this qualifying series (Nigeria 3-1 Algeria), at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo.

As the qualifiers draw near, one can only hope that when these MEN IN BLACK (lately they color in the rainbow) sound the whistle for action to commence in Uyo and Yaoundé, their deeds would be fair to all – not a case of familiarity breeding contempt.

FUN FACT: If the Super Eagles accumulate 6pts from these matches, Russia 2018 – we’d have lift off!