Archive for June 11th, 2010

A good day for Asian refereeing

 Well that’s the first day over and the FIFA World Cup 2010 has 2010 has well and truly started.

As I mentioned in my last blog, just before the tournament began, the performance of the refereeing team in the first match is very important in setting the standards for the whole tournament. 

I thought Ravshan Irmatov and his team did an excellent job. Firstly, they and the players had to cope with opening speeches and presentations when all they wanted to do was to get on with the match.

Ravshan handled the pressure very well and it was significant that he was very close to play in the early part of the match to establish his authority with the players when giving decisions. Presence gives authority.

But you must say that it was very much a team effort. Ravshan had fantastic support from his assistants and the signal in the 37th minute by assistant referee Rafael Ilyasov from Uzbekistan to correctly deny Mexico what could have been the opening goal was critical to the outcome of the match. A tremendous display of awareness and courage!

The match between Uruguay and France was refereed by another AFC Elite Referee, Yuichi Nishimura from Japan. Again hundreds of million viewers all over the world saw a refereeing team at the top of their game.

At the end of the match, Alan Shearer, former captain of England, and often a severe critic of referees, said on the BBC, ‘The referee had a fantastic game’. Praise indeed, but well merited, and let’s not forget the contribution of his assistants as well.

Another top team effort!

I mentioned in my first blog about the problems faced by assistants. The AFC assistants in the first two matches were superb and have set the benchmark for the rest of the tournament.

All in all, a good day for Asian refereeing.

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Ravshan takes centre stage

When the appointment of Ravshan Irmatov to referee the opening match in the FIFA World Cup 2010 was announced, there were a number of comments from from the international media. How could a referee from such a small country as Uzbekistan, which has never qualified for the final stages be appointed to such a prestigious match? What qualifications does he have for such an appointment?

The answer, as anyone who knows about Asian football will tell you, is that he is the best referee in Asia and has refereed in a number of FIFA competitions in preparation for this tournament as well as the Asian Champions League.

FIFA has made an excellent choice. Ravshan ticks all the right boxes. At 32, he is the youngest referee in the tournament. He has a good appearance, is very fit, moves easily around the field and reads the game well.

He has excellent English and is not afraid to take the big decision. He refereed the Final of the FIFA Club World Championship in 2008 and had no hesitation in sending off Nemanja Vidić of Manchester United for violent conduct.

The appointment of the referee for the opening match in the World Cup is a crucial decision for FIFA since the referee must set the standard for the whole competition. There is a fine balance to be achieved between following instructions and refereeing in such a way that the referee can show his personality.

The referees in South Africa have undergone an intensive three year training and selection programme and eventually 29 trios have been selected from the six confederations. The refereeing trios were selected as a team – if any one of them failed the fitness test or did not maintain the highest  standards the whole team were eliminated.

This raises the question of where the problems could arise during the tournament. The most obvious problems will occur with the assistants. This is in no way a criticism of the quality of the assistants who have been appointed but a recognition of the difficult, some would say impossible,  job they have to perform – getting hairsbreadth offside decisions correct when players are moving at speed and the ball is played from a distance for example.

The main problem however is that they are under the intense scrutiny of  25 cameras in all parts of the stadium. Each camera will be used to analyse close decisions - sometimes using a number of replays from different angles. The assistant has no such luxury – he must give an instant signal.

Good luck then to Ravshan and his team today.

The referees are the 33rd team in the tournament – the team that can never win!

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