Archive for January, 2011

The Future is still Asia!

Recently I mentioned that the top two Asian referees could not officiate the semi finals of the Asian Cup because their own countries were involved – but things change.

Uzbekistan’s defeat by Australia meant that Ravshan Irmatov became available while Japan’s defeat of South Korea meant that Yuichi Nishimura was not.

So reigning AFC Referee of the Year Ravshan Irmatov of Uzbekistan will referee the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011™ final match between Australia and Japan on Saturday 29th January at the Khalifa Stadium in Qatar.

Irmatov, 33, is one of the best-known names in the world of refereeing, having won the AFC Referee of the Year award three times in a row – 2008, 2009 and 2010 and his excellent performances in the 2010 FIFA World Cup won praise from sides of football.

Irmatov, a referee with vast experience at the top level, said he was under no pressure and would be treating the final match as “just another game”.

“I am not getting stressed out. There is nothing special as every match is important to me – final or not,” said Irmatov, who lives in Tashkent.

 “I have already officiated three matches here and two of them were very tough – Iran versus Iraq and the Korea Republic and Iran quarter-final. So I know what to expect.”

“I am analysing my performance after every match and my World Cup experience is helping me.”

AFC Referee Instructor Shamsul Maidin of Singapore, who is a former AFC Referee of the Year himself, said the referees had prepared themselves well.

Shamsul was also involved in the preparation of referees for South Africa 2010 and speaks from vast refereeing experience.

“The referee teams are ready both technically and physically. They are doing their best and I expect more of the same from them. This is not to put any pressure on them. Everybody has to strive for excellence,” said Maidin.

Commenting on the overall standards of refereeing, Maidin said: “It has been very good. Of course, there have been shortcomings and these have given us some areas to work upon. Our stride towards excellence is continuing and I hope we can achieve it in the last two matches. That will be the perfect icing on the cake!”

The Asian Cup has seen high quality performances from high quality referees.

The Future is still Asia!

  • Share/Bookmark

Asia’s top referees are missing!

The appointments for the semi finals of the Asian Cup are interesting.

Two of the world’s top referees are missing.

Ravshan Irmatov from Uzbekistan was in charge of the opening match in FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa and also refereed a semi final. Yuichi Nishimura of Japan refereed the second match in South Africa and was also fourth official at the final. Together they refereed eight matches in the World Cup.

Not a bad record!

But they have not been appointed to the semi finals of the Asian Cup.

The problem of course is that their national teams are now in the semi finals and so they cannot be involved.

AFC Elite Referees Ben Williams of Australia and Kim Dong Jin of South Korea are also out of the equation for the same reason.

This is the reality of a top level football competition. As a referee, when your national team does well, your chances are limited.

But this is how it should be. Spectators want to see football teams, not referees.

Maybe if South Korea, Japan, Australia or Uzbekistan fail to reach the final of the World Cup in Brazil 2014, we will see them in another semi final – or final!

  • Share/Bookmark

Mark Halsey – The Special One

I attended a meeting of the Birmingham District Referees Association on Thursday 20th January and it was a fantastic evening.

The guest speaker was English Premier League referee Mark Halsey. He spoke about his last year – a year of pressure, setting targets, facing challenges and achieving goals.

He was talking football of course, but it was in the context that in August 2009 he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of throat cancer which not only threatened his refereeing career but his actual life.

He found out he had cancer a few days before he was due to referee the Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park, Liverpool.

He refereed that match – probably he should have called off, as he admitted himself – but his biggest challenge was two days later when he went into Christie Hospital, Bolton for an operation to remove the tumour.

He took the audience through the challenges he faced, not least that his wife had been diagnosed with leukaemia some months earlier.

His main target at the start of the season was to referee an FA Cup Final at Wembley. His target a few days later was to beat cancer and survive.

His presentation was an emotional one as he spoke about the challenges he faced but it was inspirational as well since the main message was that you have to face up to challenges of whatever sort.

Mark relates well to football people because of his personality and he had plenty of support in his fight.

When Jose Mourinho arrived at Chelsea in June 2004 he said he was the ‘Special One,’ but in an interview he said that Mark Halsey was the real ‘Special One.’ He spoke glowingly of Mark as the referee he regarded as a true friend and said he was always the 23rd man on the field.

Mark’s story was inspirational and there was a message for everyone present.

Goals can be different but you always need determination to achieve them.

  • Share/Bookmark

Losing it

Last night I watched a Scottish Premier League match between Hamilton and Celtic.

It was a fiery encounter between the team at the top of the league and the team at the bottom.

It was also a controversial encounter with three red cards, a goal awarded when the player looked in an offside position, a 90th minute equalising penalty kick for Celtic, six minutes of added time and a 95th minute headed goal which was disallowed because the ball had gone out of play.

All in all a very interesting match!

Today however the Scottish media is full of complaints and criticism of the refereeing team by the Celtic manager. Celtic have appealed against a red card for one of their players, as they have done against a six match ban for their manager for touchline misconduct in an earlier match.

The match finished level and Celtic dropped two points. It appears the club are bad losers.

Knowing how to lose can be difficult.

If you were to take both teams from last night’s match to the Old Course at St Andrews for a golf match you would not need a referee. Nobody would think of cheating on the golf course. The fair play ethos of golf controls the attitude of the players while the confrontational and antagonistic ethos of football means the same players claim for decisions they know should not go in their favour.

Golf is so different from football yet the top golfers are every bit as competitive as the top football players and coaches. Witness the 2010 Ryder Cup.

Tennis is in a golden era at the moment with arguably two of the greatest players of all time leading the rankings- Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. They love to win but when they lose they can go in front of the media and congratulate their opponent. No excuses about poor line calls or poor umpire decisions.

Maybe it is just as well, however, there is no offside in tennis!

  • Share/Bookmark

FIFA get it right and wrong

The decision to give the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar was a major step into the unknown by FIFA.

It took the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time, just as the decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia took it to Eastern Europe for the first time.

Let’s be clear from the start, the bid by Qatar was based on a World Cup in June/July as normal. Any suggestion to change the date has come from FIFA and not the Qatar FA.

Qatar had planned air-conditioned stadia to counter the summer heat and make no mistake if they were required, they would have been built.

After the vote however, FIFA changed the arrangements.

An initial comment by Franz Beckenbauer that the dates should be changed was followed up by comments by the FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, supporting the idea.

The possible change was then in the public domain and it will remain there while FIFA manipulate arrangements and regulations to make it happen.

There will be no problem with the Asian Football Confederation which is holding the Asian Cup in Qatar just now.

This will, however, be a crisis in the relationship between FIFA and UEFA and CONMEBOL, the European and South American confederations.

It will wreck havoc with domestic and continental competitions and many predict this is only the starting point of a long drawn out battle.

Maybe by 2022 the present UEFA President, Michel Platini will be the FIFA President and Sepp Blatter will be the Honorary FIFA President. What will happen then?

The FIFA Executive Committee went against the recommendations of its own high powered FIFA Study Group in voting for Qatar. Australia, Japan, South Korea and especially USA were other strong options for 2022.

Qatar will only work for spectators in January/February 2022.

These things should have been thought about on 2nd December 2010 when the decision was made.

  • Share/Bookmark

The art of refereeing

Today I watched matches from the Scottish Premier League and the Barclays Premier League on television.

What particularly impressed me was the skill of the referees.

The derby match between Rangers and Celtic in Scotland was played at a frenetic pace. FIFA Referee, Craig Thomson and his team were alone in a cauldron of hatred between the supporters and the highly competitive attitudes of the players.

They did magnificently. Craig used all his experience to defuse problems by the quiet word or the formal warning. When cautions were required they were given without fear or favour. It was an excellent example of the art of refereeing at the top level.

He was close to play when he made his decisions and his body language was that of a confident referee totally in control of the situation.

World Cup final referee Howard Webb was in charge of the BPL match between Wigan and Newcastle.

Again his body language was that of a referee in total control – accurate decisions and a feeling for the game. The German word is “fingerspitzengefühl” – a feeling in the tips of your fingers.

Both referees exuded confidence, but not over-confidence.

They had a feeling for the game and the players responded accordingly.

The 17 Laws of the Game are clearly stated but the top referees are those who are able to apply them with confidence, accuracy and common sense.

Refereeing is an art.

Not every work of art or artistic performance is perfect. There have been some poor performances both on the screen and on the stage but overall the top performers regularly deliver at the top level.

Top referees do the same. They do not get every decision correct but they are highly qualified specialists who are experts at their craft.

We must never under-estimate the skills of the top referees.

  • Share/Bookmark

Memories of 2010

Well 2010 is now a memory and we look forward to what 2011 will bring for football.

Looking back to the old year there were a number of memories

The 2010 FIFA World Cup

The 2010 FIFA World Cup was of course the big event but it was disappointing in many ways.

  • Spain were the best team in the tournament and deservedly won the cup but they scored only eight goals in seven matches while in 1970 Brazil won the cup scoring 19 goals in six matches.
  • The disallowed goal for England against Germany reignited the discussions on goal line technology and these will continue.
  • There were many complaints about refereeing decisions.
  • Hopefully we will never have another World Cup with vuvuzelas.

 World Cups 2018 and 2022

FIFA also decided the venues for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and there were a number of controversial points.

  • Russia won the right to host 2018 despite the FIFA Technical Study Group expressing reservations about the need for new stadia, the distances between the venues, the transport network and security.
  • The bids from Western Europe – Spain/Portugal, Belgium /Netherlands and England were overlooked as FIFA looked to widen the location of the host countries.
  • England, which seemed to have the best technical bid and had the support of David Beckham, Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William, the FA Honorary President, gained only two votes and were eliminated in the first round of voting.
  • Qatar won the 2022 bid, beating Asian rivals, Japan, South Korea and Australia as well as USA, despite having critical comments from the FIFA Technical Study Group about the dangers of holding the World Cup in June/July 2022 when the average temperature is over 40° centigrade.
  • Suggestions are now being made that the 2002 FIFA World Cup will be rearranged for January/February 2022. This will have major effect on the top European and South American leagues.
  • If this proposal is accepted there will be no need to build the air-conditioned stadia promised in the bid.

The only thing you can guarantee is that 2011 will be no less controversial!

Best wishes to everyone for a happy, prosperous and peaceful 2011.

  • Share/Bookmark