It has been nearly four months since the spread of the coronavirus shut down the sports world.
Most countries have canceled their championships without winners, relegation, or promotion. Gambia has declared its championship null and void while other African countries like Tanzania and Senegal are planning to resume behind closed doors in November.
However, not to be lost in the shuffle are those who also exist within the related circle of the game, the referees.
For more than six years, officiating has been a way of life for Maudo Jallow. Currently Gambia’s second best referee after Bakary Papa Gassama, Jallow became a FIFA referee in 2009.
But just like footballers and athletes around, referees like Maudo continue to wait in limbo as to what will happen with their competitions as the effects of COVID-19 continue ravaging sporting activities around the globe.
“The Coronavirus has really affected my activities both at local and international level. I should have been outside the country officiating CAF club competitions at this period, but because of the pandemic, it’s not possible, “Maudo tells The Chronicle.
“I know the doctors and health experts are doing their utmost best in fighting the virus, but it has seriously affected us, referees.”
Jallow has officiated both domestic and international high profile matches. In 2013, he was the man in charge of a world cup qualifier between Nigeria and Ethiopia.
The Confederation of African football (CAF) has recently increased the allowance for referees from US$ 750 (D38, 662.50) per match, to US$ 1,125 (D57, 993.75).
Meanwhile, the loss of income will still have an impact on Maudo’s lifestyle, as he said that most of the money that he pulls in from officiating goes toward paying for household bills. “Most of the money I receive when I travel really helps to take care of myself and family, “he said. Now that the money is not coming, it’s not good for me, Jallow smiles.”
However, Maudo is fortunate to have a full-time job as a businessman, but he knows that there are many referees that rely heavily on their game paychecks to make a living. ““There are some guys that are just referees and I am sure that this is a difficult time for them,” Jallow said. “While I have another job myself, certainly this stoppage is a loss of income for me. It’s a good chunk of money that I rely on for certain things.”
Football, is likely to change due to the COVID-19 outbreak, with many believing protocols for players and referee safety could also change, but Maudo is looking forward to getting back to officiating and hopes the pandemic ends soon. “Most likely FIFA will formulate its safety rules that would be circulated to all its member associations for referees to use when football resumes, but I can’t wait to get back to the field.
In May 2020, African match officials launched #Stayfit campaign to maintain their fitness levels during this difficult period.
The match officials including Gambia’s Papa Gassama are seen engaged in physical exercises either in the gym or at home as they brace up for a return to sporting activities on the continent and beyond with a message of hope “see you soon on the pitch”.
CAF said it is monitoring the situation closely and working with the relevant authorities including the Wealth Health Organization (WHO), FIFA amongst others on the impact of the virus on the continent, and will announce developments to their competitions at the appropriate time.
“The CAF Refereeing Department is in constant touch with the referees, advice on training regimes as well reminding them to observe the preventive protocols,” said CAF Refereeing Director, Eddy Maillet.
Note: Some information’s in this story is picked from CAF Online.