Johannesburg – The South Africa Council of Football Associations (Cosafa) two-week tournament kicks off in Durban on May 25, with the region's referees having the perfect platform to demonstrate their understanding of the laws of the beautiful game.
Southern Africa has a healthy reputation for producing good allies and women with three of the four referees who will deal with the CAF Champions League semi-final matches coming from that region.
Joshua Bondo of Botswana will be in the middle when Morocco's Wydad Casablanca host Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa on Saturday while Helder Martins de Carvalho of Angola will be in charge of the return match on May 4 .
South African Victor Gomes will have the whistle of what is likely to be a second very disputed match between TP Mazembe of DR Congo and title holder Esperance of Tunisia in Lubumbashi in the Congolese country, also on 4 May.
Janny Sikazwe (Zambia) was also responsible for the second leg of the quarter-final in Lubumbashi in the final round.
Martins is the perfect example of an umpire who has been trained in Cosafa tournaments and is now at the top of his craft.
"I received the Cosafa Cup final in 2009, which was a surprise since I was a young referee, but it was a great experience for me," said Martins.
"No one knew me, I was very young at the time. I think people were a bit afraid of how I would introduce myself. Me too, I was very, very scared, it was a great challenge. But it went well and continues to be probably my best memory as a referee. "
"The following year there was the Under-17 African Championship and I finished it too," added Martins.
"After that, I was promoted to the U-17 World Cup in Mexico, two matches. I went up from there.
Martins said he has no doubt that some of Africa's top referees, both men and women, are leaving the Cosafa region.
"Cosafa is doing a great job developing new referees," he said.
"Every year we see new talents in the U-17 and U-20 tournaments, and we also have three or four new referees at the top."
Martins, Gomes, Bondo, Sikazwe, Jackson Pavaza (Namibia) and Bernard Camille (Seychelles) are the referees chosen by the African Football Confederation to participate in a preparatory course before the 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, while six other assistant referees from the region will participate.
On the women's front, Gladys Lengwe (Zambia) will compete for the FIFA Women's World Cup in France in June and July, while Bernadettar Kwimbira (Malawi), Lidwine Rakotozafinoro (Madagascar) and Queency Victoire (Mauritius) serve as assistant referees.
In addition, Jerome Damon, the highly respected former South African referee, has recently been appointed as FIFA Director of Referee Development for Africa.
Damon has emerged as Video Assistant Referee (VAR) training guru for Africa and has led several seminars on new technology for umpires across the continent.
Much of this was possible under the watchful and experienced eye of the Cosafa Referee Manager, Felix Tangawarima, a Zimbabwean who is also a member of the Arbitration Committee of the African Football Confederation (CAF) and a FIFA technical coach.
"One of Cosafa's main goals is development," said Tangawarima. "As a region, we are very proud that the long-term umpire development program has produced very positive results in year (e) of the year." Nampa / ANA