rom the quarter-finals stage of the ongoing 31st Total Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017, there will be a Reserve Assistant Referee for each of the matches till the end of the competition.

The innovative idea tabled by the CAF Referees’ Committee got the approval of the Organising Committee for the Africa Cup of Nations during its meeting held on Thursday, 26 January 2017 in the Gabonese capital, Libreville.

The decision means that the officiating team for of each match for the remainder of the competition will now consist of five persons namely, Referee, Two Assistant Referees, Reserve Referee and a Reserve Assistant Referee, instead of the previous four.

Eddy Maillet, CAF Refereeing Manager explained that the fifth official will serve as a replacement for either of the Assistant Referees in the unlikely event of an injury or any incident that will prevent such person from continuing the game.

The Reserve Assistant Referee will be positioned next to the Stretcher-bearers on the right of the host team (usually Team A) during the matches, and it is the conviction that the presence of an added official will help maintain and improve the appreciable standards of officiating exhibited so far in the competition.

It must be recalled that, 17 Referees and 21 Assistant referees were selected for the tournament, after the Elite A Referees Course last September in Cairo, Egypt.

Upon arrival in Libreville, a Fitness Test was organized to ensure that the match officials were in the best of physical conditions supervised by seasoned Instructors. It was followed by a four day refresher course, from 9-13 January 2017.

That was not all for the referees. Once the competition started, they are made to undergo daily integrated sessions, where they apply both practical skills and theoretical knowledge in the form of videos and group discussions.

They are assisted by a Video Technician during the integrated sessions for Instant Feedback, a technique which helps the referee to evaluate and auto-correct himself instantly during the training.

There are also pre-match and post-match activities the referees go through before each game. Before each match, the team of referees go through special fitness training. After, there is a preparatory meeting with the instructors, who brief them about all the necessary aspects. After the matches, there are recovery sessions including massage.

On the match days, the panel of instructors and Referees Committee members watch the games together in a TV room, and analyse the games to prepare for Debriefing Sessions, which are organised after every six matches. During such sessions, the instructors discuss the performance and evaluation of the four officials and referees also get the opportunity to learn from each other and also explain reasons behind certain decisions during the match in question.

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