UAAP Football: Refereeing at its worst

UST and DLSU played to a so-so 2-2 draw last Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium but the stars of the game were not the goalscorers nor the shot stoppers, they were the referees.

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Photo from Pam Puri /GOARCHERS.COM

It was the most atrocious refereeing performance I have seen in a long time. Might even be the worst if my memory serves me right. I was informed before the match that the set of referees in the UAAP was not the first choice. PFF referees, the original preference, were pulled out in the last minute and in place were another group of referees that I need not mention.

Fast forward to the game, the half finished 1-1 with UST largely owning the action with more chances in the counterattack. To be honest, I was already beginning to zone out as both teams were already becoming very predictable on the pitch. DLSU would try to go over the top in attack but were largely tamed by the UST defense who would then automatically initiate a counterattack to the opposite end. The refereeing was largely acceptable until after the 3rd goal was scored in the 50th minute (For the sake of argument, I shall be describing scenario in an agnostic manner).

Scenario 1: Player A was called for a foul on Player B after Player B fell down in an aerial challenge. It was dumbfounding because Player A 1) was way taller than player b, 2) stood his ground jumped vertically in his place, 3) Player B had no chance nor a play and bounce off player A  due to size disparity.

This scenario was followed by a foul throw, non-calls on physicals plays (kick,clip,push,etc) that didn’t warrant an advantage calls, and a referee half-raising his flag for offside with no offensive player receiving an offside pass. At this point you would only think that the referees were either lazy or unfit leading to these non-calls, but they were surely tested minutes later in Scenario 2.

Player from Team A broke free in the right wing and rushed to the opposing half. His run was stopped by the Player B with some sweet nothings given between the two just after the play. Moments later, Player B confronted the Player A and unleashed a headbutt which brought Player A to the ground. The foul happened in front of the linesman and at the line of sight of the main referee. Player A’s teammates rushed towards Player B with both benches going out of their technical area. Before issuing a card, the main referee consulted the linesman on the play and then issued a yellow card to Player B. That’s correct, a yellow for striking.

Which leads us to Scenario 3, Player A2 in an act of desperation lunged forward Player B2 with a high two-footed tackle. Player A2 missed the ball with Player B luckily evading the challenge. No card nor warning was given to Player A2.

With all the scenarios considered, a suspension of the game officials would be the bare minimum action with regard to the game. It is inexcusable for these referees to lose control of the match and fail at the most basic calls. An example has to be made for the whole lot of referees to understand that collegiate football is a serious tournament and not just a chore where they could make some money.

This problem is not limited to these referees as multiple coaches have already complained of the quality of the officiating. One even mentioned in a social media post to the tune that these referees are using the tournament as a training ground to the expense of the participating teams . Immediate action is necessary in order to improve the quality in the remaining group games.

Since the league is going to the second half, the UAAP committee will also need to try to re-educate this set of referees where possible. If budget permits, a weekly seminar/review on the rules of the game (based on televised games) can be done in the second round. This will help the league in the long term if these officials are to return in the future tournaments. Also, these set of referees should not be considered in the final four. It is better for the league to bring in FIFA accredited football referees in the final phase of the tournament to ensure the integrity of the game.

With the PFF Womens League on a break, the UAAP is currently the highest tier of league football in the country. It deserves the best officiating this country has to offer and nothing less. The players should be the stars, not the referees.

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