Ref Gomes on his Mo Salah moment: ‘It was the most appropriate way to handle him’

Referee Victor Gomes said he needed to treat Egyptian star, Mohammed Salah, with the necessary respect in the African Cup of Nations final.

Egypt forward Mohamed Salah (R) speaks with South African referee Victor Gomes during the Africa Cup of Nations 2021 final. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

Egypt forward Mohamed Salah (R) speaks with South African referee Victor Gomes during the Africa Cup of Nations 2021 final. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

Referee Victor Gomes said the handling of his now-famous Mohammed Salah moment in Sunday’s 2021 African Cup of Nations final between Egypt and Senegal was based on putting the game first.

The 39-year-old, who officiated the game Senegal won on penalties to collect their very first Afcon title, had his moment in the sun where in the 38th-minute, he handed over his cards and whistle to the Liverpool legend in a manner that suggested he should take over the game.

Fellow South African Zakhele Siwela was one of his assistant referees in the final.

Gomes, who’s known for his straight-talking manner, no-nonsense approach, and his by-the-book officiating, said he had a responsibility to handle what could have been a flash-point moment in a level-headed manner.

“I respect the players that I officiate with and I don’t like to talk about the decisions I make on the field,” Gomes said.

“However, I do like to highlight some points for educational purposes and I also believe we have a responsibility to report positively on football matters so that our work is understood.

“Football has evolved tremendously and so have the players, who are highly respected and paid. Refereeing also has to evolve in that manner.

“We can’t stick to the old adage of officiating in a set way and style. All I can say is that on Sunday, I chose to manage a top-class player in a way I thought it would be deemed appropriate and responsible.

“Football was the ultimate winner on the day.”

Gomes, who has been officiating for 23 years, said he was appreciative of how the media has treated him despite public perception of being a hot-headed official.

Gomes gained a reputation over the years for not being shy of brandishing cards to players and officials, while also handing out penalties regardless of the time and nature of games.

“I know that ‘Penaldinho’ has come and gone, but I’m proud of the media that we have in South Africa,” Gomes said.

“They keep us on our toes and I have matured, but I think players understand me better now. If you also scrutinise my games, I’m also the biggest joker on the field.

“If you respect me, we’ll have a beautiful game of football, but the silent words you can’t hear must be dealt with.

“I’ve also made many mistakes and errors of judgment and I’ve beaten myself up for them. The one thing though I felt I’ve always been, is to be consistent.

“The same Gomes you see now is the same Gomes of five years ago.”

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