The Referee As A Spectator

Bolutife Oluwadele
3 min readAug 29, 2021

Many who are well acquainted with me will know my passion for the round leather game, football, or soccer in North America. There is hardly anyone of my generation who may not be passionate about that. Yes, the degree of passion may vary.

In my book, “Thoughts of A Village Boy” (by the way, do you have a copy yet?), sizable dosses of football were infused into the narratives. In fact, a whole chapter similar to the above was included.

So, some summer ago, I was involved with community soccer with my boys. Then I was approached by the organizers if I would not mind refereeing some of the games. First, I let him know that my boys are playing in under 10, under 14, and under 16 categories, respectively. He said that should not be a problem, more so it is for fun and not stringent competition. The reason for the full disclosure is not unconnected with my training as an auditor. Therefore, on a personal note, I disclosed where I am standing beforehand when there seems to be a conflict of interest on any assignment given to me. So, I was given the whistle to officiate in the under 10 games.

There were instances where my last boy who was in the under 10 categories will not be playing; though we all move together to all games, the consciousness that he was playing in that category never left me. More importantly, I also doubled as the ‘domestic coach’ for all my boys then.

There was this particular game, I can vividly recall. Before the match day, I had taught my wards some new ‘techniques,’ and I could not wait to see any of them demonstrate that on the field of play. At some point, I got lost in that expectation and totally forgot that I was the man at the center. I was in charge of the game, coordinating, and expected to be fair-minded to all players. Of course, I had my assistant referees on both sides of the field, who were also drawn from the parents.

I was watching more for the deft movement by my boy than concentrating on being the impartial judge I am expected to be. Then, something just whispered into my hearing; you are the referee. It was a rude awakening, but I quickly responded by bringing myself into the reality of the moment.

It is not entirely inhuman to be caught up in our selfish cocoon when we hold ‘trust’ on behalf of the general public. However, it becomes an issue when we fail to respond to the reality awakening to our responsibility to the general public. The awakening may come from our self-consciousness of self-drift or what you may regard as conscience. Also, the public outcry may help us to look inwards and re-evaluate our stance. When we seek to justify our errors, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to retrace our steps and do the right thing.

Yes, a referee wants to enjoy the game as much as anybody, but a responsibility placed on the shoulders is such that failure will make the majority of the people not enjoy the game.

Public service is like refereeing a match in any sport. You are there to ensure all parties adhere to the game’s rules and exercise sanctions where there is a violation. You can, therefore, not afford to be carried away by the mundane selfish desire of becoming a spectator in a game in which you are the referee.

A word they say is enough for the wise.

It is the beginning of the new week; get yourself back into the ‘game’ and make sure you fulfill the expectation as a referee.

A referee cannot afford the emotional attachment of a spectator; otherwise, the match will be ruined!




Bolutife Oluwadele

Author of “Thoughts Of A Village Boy”|| Chartered Accountant|| Public Policy Enthusiast & Scholar || Business Consultant|| Columnist @premiumtimes ||MAN U FAN