Some athletes and spectators at the ongoing 19th National Sports Festival (NSF) in Abuja say they are getting worried at the quality and performance of those officiating at the competition.
A cross-section of the athletes and spectators told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at the Abuja National Stadium that low quality and poor performance have led to allegations of bias.
Sarah Samuel, an Adamawa female basketball team player, said what she had been seeing had been sickening and appalling.
“The performance of some of the referees was appalling. They sided some teams to the detriment of other teams.
“I am shocked at what I have seen so far. The officiating I have seen so far has not been fair at all and the referees just don’t care.
“The worrying part is that nothing is done if you complain. They only say `sorry’ and continue what they are doing.
“This is an aspect of sports I want organisers of the festival to look into now and in future editions,” she said.
Deborah Daniels, another athlete, said she has also witnessed incidences of biased officiating and called on the NSF organisers to conduct standard training for the officials.
“There should be training for them on unbiased officiating and professional conduct,’’ Daniels who represented the Plateau female basketball team said.
“Poor officiating and, the worse part, officiating to favour one team affect sports negatively, irrespective of what sports activity you are involved in.
“I am very worried at the rate it is happening at this festival. I hope the organisers will do something about it fast,” she said.
Daniels said she was devastated by the development and expressed the hope that with constant training and punitive measures, sports officiating would improve.
Victor Bullet, representing Ondo state in male volleyball and hockey, agreed that biased officiating had been witnessed at the 19th NSF.
He however said he was yet to witness it in his two sports of volleyball and hockey.
“Honestly, I agree that bad officiating has occurred in some events here. But I can also say that in volleyball and hockey, nothing of such has occurred. The officiating in those sports has been okay.
“My advise to those who officiate to favour a team is that they should fear God and understand that this festival is aimed at bringing us closer as a nation and not causing more acrimony because if it continues, people will begin to read different meanings into it which will not be good for us,” Bullet said.
However, Abdul Jimoh, an FCT male basketballer, said he has chosen not to believe that referees are being biased because he has not personally witnessed it.
He nevertheless called on referees to remain impartial in the course of refereeing a sports activity between two teams.
“Any sign of bias among referees will affect not just the athletes concerned but the country as a whole in the eyes of the international community,’’ Jimoh said.
NAN reports however that all efforts to speak with some referees on this development proved abortive as they all maintained they were not allowed to speak with the media.