WITH only one official selected from the Caribbean to officiate at the ongoing Fifa World Cup in Qatar, former Jamaican referee and World Cup appointee Peter Prendergast says local and regional referees must raise their game if they hope to be selected for the next tournament in 2026.
Assistant Referee Caleb Wales from Trinidad and Tobago is the only man from the Caribbean who has been selected from the region to officiate at this year's World Cup tournament, which kicked off on Sunday.
In fact Prendergast, who officiated at the 2002 senior men's World Cup in Japan/South Korea in 2006, was the last Jamaican referee to have achieved the feat. He stood in the Group H match between Russia and Tunisia, which the Russians won 2-0, and also officiated in the quarter-final encounter between Belgium and Brazil for which the latter won 2-0.
"I think we just have to keep working and be consistent in the application, make tough decisions, and have courage," opined Prendergast. "We have the physical fitness but we are just not keeping with the pace of the game in terms of what is happening in football," he said.
"The pace has changed a lot and the tactics have changed a lot...it is not like in my time when the game wasn't even as fast then, but it is faster now and players are more skillful. The tactics have changed, and some of what we are doing locally don't help because the pace of the game locally is still too slow so when we have to deal with the international football, oftentimes we fall a little bit short," Prendergast noted.
He shared that the next World Cup tournament, which will be jointly hosted by the USA, Canada and Mexico, will be held in four years' time, therefore providing windows of opportunities for local officials in particular to get their act together.
"Remember, it is Concacaf and there is no guarantee that a Jamaican or Trinidadian, or any Caribbean referee, will make it because it is not like that. It is based on the efforts and the consistency," Prendergast pointed out.
"Caleb Wales, for example, who is at the World Cup, was very consistent for two, three years so his place was in the making two [to] three years. And that is what we lacked — the consistency throughout," he said.
Prendergast made the point that there are quality referees in Jamaica, and once they work hard then he sees no reason why they cannot make it to the next World Cup in 2026.
"We are not very far off because we have good officials but we are a little bit short as we need more consistency. They [officials] do well in the international games but when they come home they drop off a little bit and so they have to catch up again...it has to be consistent," Prendergast emphasised.
"The selectors, even though they are not in Jamaica, they watch games — schoolboy games, Premier Leagues games — and these things help to make decisions in the end," he concluded.