Give Victor Gomes A Break
Victor Gomes. The name almost every football supporter doesn’t like mentioned, as it is synonymous with controversial calls and grabbing the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The name, which will soon find its way into the ever-growing list of new terms coined after people’s actions, belongs to one of the top referees in the Absa Premiership. The likeable fella, on his day, exhibits confidence and authority but his constant blunders continue to take away from all the good that he has done so far as a middleman. For long enough now, Gomes has continued to get away with murder for his dubious calls and it boggles the mind that the attention-grabbing referee continues to be assigned to games, crucial games at that, despite his continued mistakes and bad judgements.
Just this past weekend, Gomes continued to steal the limelight when he erroneously awarded two penalties in the League clash between Bidvest Wits and Golden Arrows. Coincidentally, if you will, he gave both teams a penalty each albeit they were both hugely questionable. Wits defender, Sifiso Hlanti, played a cross that found its way to the face of Arrows captain and defender, Matome Mathiane, who was desperately trying to clear the ball.
Alas, the diminutive Gomes, who was positioned right behind the action, caught everyone by surprise when he adjudged the ball to have come off the defender’s hand and therefore boldly awarded a penalty. The decision even caught Hlanti himself by surprise as he clearly saw what had happened. Gomes didn’t even check with his assistant before making the call and the captain’s appeals fell on deaf ear. The penalty was duly converted by Lehlohonolo Majoro.
As if that wasn’t enough, Gomes went on to erroneously award a penalty to Arrows when he felt Thulani Hlatshwayo had impeded Lerato Lamola inside the box, when the Bafana Bafana captain completely avoided any form of contact with Lamola, just before the edge of the box, before Lamola was involved in a tussle with Buhle Mkhwanazi inside the box. Gomes’ decisions influenced the game and pretty much spoiled what could have been a game of the weekend, as the two sides usually play a high-scoring and entertaining affair.
Arrows, despite missing a penalty that could have turned the game on its head, will look back at that game and feel hard done by. They were effectively robbed of at least a point, but who cares about that, as life goes on?
This is not the first and looks like certainly not the last time Gomes managed to steal the shine from the main characters, footballers. People watch football because they want entertainment, not spending the whole 90 minutes discussing the referee’s performance. The best referees quietly go about doing their job with little to no attention-grabbing antics at all – those are the referees that give value to the game. They don’t police but manage the game. You hardly notice them, as all they do is manage the game rather than force their way into recognition and attention.
At this crucial stage of the season, where every point counts, the last thing everyone needs is to have doubts about the officiating. Teams are going to get relegated, miss out on the Top Eight bracket finish and also miss out on the League title race and none of that should be pointed at anyone, least of all match officials.
Let the SAFA referees’ committee give Gomes a break! Allow him some time off football so he can reflect on his recent performances and, more importantly, get whatever help he needs. For all we know, there could be a psychological problem here and I’m only an ordinary fellow who happens to be a member of the Fourth Estate but I’m sure even Stevie Wonder can see the negative impact Gomes’ behaviour is likely to have in the final stretch of the league race.
How does Gomes feel when, after every game he has been involved in, all people are talking about is him rather than the Beautiful Game? Does it make him happy to receive so much attention, capitalising on the famous saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity? Does it matter to him that his reputation precedes him? Does he think players are comfortable around him? Is he happy with his performances? Does he need help? Does he feel the need to issue cards and penalties willy-nilly?
The fact that match officials are precluded from doing interviews means we will never get answers to these questions from Gomes. That means he can’t be held accountable to the general football-loving community. He will continue to get away with his actions as match officials, unlike coaches, don’t have to explain their decisions or account for their performance to the public after the game.
I tried to explain this to a Soccer Laduma reader who called in to complain about Gomes’ performances and the fact that teams are at risk of dropping points as a consequence of his actions. The reader asked me to ask Gomes whether he is an attention-seeker “next time Soccer Laduma interviews him” and that was before I explained the fact that the officials are not doing interviews, so I can’t ask him that question.
But Mr Gomes, with all the humility I can muster, let me ask, are you an attention seeker?