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Gomes Made Headlines By Rejecting A $30,000 Bribe… But Just Who Is The Controversial African Referee?


Very few referees are spoken of fondly. If ever a match official gets extolled –a thing hard to find in the modern game – it is usually for his unbiased rulings and strong character to withstand lofty temptations in a football world littered with corrupt practices.

In our part of the globe, referees are often the ones found embroiled in the sport’s dirtiest of vices. Their paltry salary is explanation for this. However this week, a South African referee did the hard to find – refusing to accept a whopping $30,000 bribe, a sum perhaps tenfold his basic salary.

Victor Miguel De Freitas Gomes did not only ward off attempt to buy his conscience to fix a Confederation Cup tie between Nigeria’s Plateau United and Algeria’s USM Alger but went further to bring Confederation of African Football’s attention to the purported incident.

The 35-year-old has been lauded for his naked honesty with the South Africa Football Association (SAFA) even basking in the glory for the referee’s character, saying, Victor’s rejection of the bribe was impact of an integrity seminar they’d organised for their referees prior to start of the season. But just who is the bald-headed whistle-man hugging the headlines across the continent?

Born in one of the World’s top-50 largest urban areas, Johannesburg, Victor joined South Africa elite football referees ranks ten years ago.

What started out as a passion transformed into an obsession. Four years from the time he picked up the whistle, he was voted South Africa Premier Soccer League arbiter of the year, 12 months after earning his FIFA badge.

But the 35-year-old’s career is not one without controversy. He’s reported to carry himself about with the air of a man over-flooding with confidence. In an effort to tell all those who care to know about his profession, reports say, he drives around with the Mr. Ref phrase emblazoned on his car.

In the pitch, his stock is on the rise in the African games but a different tone speaks about his performances at domestic level.

Referee reviewing committee had tipped him to one day sprout up into one of the very best on the continent. Pundits, forced to sit up and take notice of his displays, were beginning to run out of superlatives describing his brilliance in commanding matches. Then controversy began treading his path. By 2016, he’d already gained notoriety. In a fixture featuring Kaizer Chiefs versus Cape Town City, he was subject of discussions on back pages when he gave a ball-boy his marching orders. Reason for the ejection was the boy had thrown in a ball while another was already being used in field of play. Numerous video angle replays of the incident showed the lad’s action wasn’t deliberate. But Mr. Ref has a varying interpretation of the moment and though he did not issue the youngster a red card, but bothered to gesticulate for the ball-boy’s exit to the stands.

Count down the five best referees in South of Africa and Gomes will get a mention however, his no non-sense frequent approach to games had made him susceptible to villain tagging. ‘The Victor Show’, coined by his critics in the press, is a popular mantra in the Rainbow nation.

February this year, he got under Mamelodi Sundwons coach Pitso John Hamilton Mosimane’s skin. Of the 18 years the 53-year-old had spent coaching, the Brazilians’ gaffer has never gotten sent off. But Victor brought an end to that unblemished record. Social media went bonkers over it with many insisting a warning to the shouting erstwhile Caf coach of the year Mosimane would have settled it.

And, by way of revenge, the Sundowns tactician’s post-match assessment of the incident wasn’t kind.

“Let me tell you something about Gomes, he is a very good referee. Trust me. He is a good referee. He makes mistakes because he becomes emotional. He gets hyper in the match. You see it in the way he runs. No! You are not the centre of attraction. Stay low. He gets hyper and that’s when he makes mistakes.”

“But in Africa, he is cool. Top! Because he knows what happens. You want to go to TP Mazembe or AS Vita (and be hyper)? You need to calm down there. That’s why Daniel Bennett comes out of that situation unscathed. He is calm. Gomes is calm in Caf. I want him to have the same approach in the PSL. I follow him. I want to see how he handles Caf. He is a good referee. He needs to keep his emotions in check. He needs a little bit of counseling,” Pitso said.

Prior to this saga, he had earned the moniker ‘Penaldinho’ having issued eleven (11) penalties in four matches. This was preceded by another debacle.

Mr. Ref wrongly interpreted the rules which almost had a seething Baroka FC relegated to the second tier of South African football pyramid and never offered an apology later.

Of all the negative vibes reported about him, the bribery saga will sure enhance a much tattered reputation and his critics will find themselves in an awkward position to at least admit he is incorruptible.


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