Cape Town ref is best in the country

Abongile Tom poses with his Premier Soccer League (PSL) referee of the year trophy, outside his home in Philippi, on Sunday. The 28-year-old crime analyst is officially the countrys best referee.

Picture: Buntu Gotywa

That recognition means the 28-year-old from Philippi, is officially the best football referee in the country right now. He was, after all, up against, some of the country’s finest whistle blowers.

Tom has come a long way since he and a number of other aspiring referees were identified by Safa-Cape Town, in 2012.

Sentinel paid him a visit at his home in Nceduluntu Crescent on Sunday.

Talking about his accolade, he said any one of the nominees could have walked away with the trophy.

“Just being nominated was an achievement on its own because I was in the company of some of the great referees, so winning it was the cherry on top,” he said.

In his maiden season in the PSL, Tom, a crime analyst for the SAPS in Pinelands, officiated the Soweto Derby earlier this season, as well as last week’s Nedbank Cup final between Kaizer Chiefs and TS Galaxy.

He got fans talking after awarding Galaxy a penalty that won them the match in the dying minutes.

That decision, as accurate as it was, didn’t make him popular with Amakhosi faithful.

“Some even sent me messages, suggesting that I awarded that penalty because I wanted to win an award. In fact, that was not the case. I was doing my job and the penalty was a legitimate one,” he said.

Despite that the ref had a good match and, of course, a good season. Over the years, Tom has attended a number of workshops in an attempt to empower himself.

“I joined the SAB league panel in the 2012/2013 season, where I was advised to take refereering seriously.

“That’s what I did and, in 2014/2015, as part of the Safa’s national young development programme, got the National Soccer League (NSL) training. I did fairly well and now have a Level 6 qualification, which means I can ref anywhere,” he said.

He made his PSL debut during the Amazulu/Supersport United match earlier this season. He said the experience has been tough and exciting at the same time.

This, he said, was because there were a number of challenges they faced as referees. He was also quick to note that his strong points, which include tolerance, made it easy for him to deal with the obstacles that came his way.

“I think of myself as a calm person, which makes it easier to address people. And that ability to address people is very important when it comes to refereeing,” he said.

“Patience and knowing what you want is also important. I have been hungry for this for years now.

“This is just the beginning and I know that I am still far from being ‘there’. I haven’t found any comfort, I still have to continue working hard,” he said.

He also admitted that being a police officer, and dealing with law-related issues on a daily basis, has helped him in his refereeing.

This, he said, was because, in policing and refereeing, one has to make sure people abide by the law all the time.

And, to be able to do that, a referee or a police officer has to have an absolute understanding of the law.

He also noted that the state of our refereeing in the country was healthy, despite some challenges faced.

“We are going in the right direction but, of course, there are lots of negatives. People tend to forget that we are only human and have to make decisions in split seconds.

“There’s no official who goes to the field to make a wrong decision.

“All we want is the correct decision.”

He also shared his views on the football technology, especially the much talked about Video Assistant Referee (VAR), saying that referees should not feel bad or threatened by the introduction of such technology.

“We have to look at its positives. I think VAR is there to improve the game and we have to adapt to the change.

“It has happened to rugby as well. It is important to make a slow correct decision rather than a quick wrong decision,” he said.