For the past two years I have worked at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with the responsibility of preparing educational training materials for referees and to work with the young referees in AFC Project Future.

These two years have been very enjoyable and very rewarding.

Asian refereeing is in a good position at the moment. There are excellent training programmes available and high quality courses are organised.

The three AFC referees appointed to the World Cup in South Africa also performed well.

It was maybe a surprise to some outside of Asia that the Asian Referee of the Year for the past two years, Ravshan Irmatov of Uzbekistan, should be appointed to the opening match but it was not a surprise to those involved in Asian football. During the tournament he refereed five matches.

Another Asian referee, Yuichi Nishimura from Japan, refereed four matches and was fourth official at the World Cup Final.

Referee development is also taking place in Asia with young referees.

AFC Project Future Referees identifies refereeing talent under the age of 25 at the seven AFC Festivals of Football and after a further selection courses in Kuala Lumpur a small group are selected for Project Future Referees.

They then follow a two year training programme when they will have four intensive courses in different parts of Asia and receive instruction from the best AFC Elite Referee Instructors. The aim is to create the next generation of AFC Elite Referees.

The Referee Development Programmes in Asia have some differences from other parts of the world and to make them most effective, the main Asian languages must be used when preparing the training DVDs.

Only English of the four official FIFA languages – English, French, German and Spanish – is used to any great extent in Asia, so teaching material must be prepared in the local languages such as Mandarin, Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Korean and Russian. Farsi will be used in the 2011 programmes.

Asia was football’s sleeping giant but it has wakened up. The Asian Champions League is developing rapidly and the national teams of Japan and South Korea performed better than many expected in South Africa.

Refereeing has been a success story but the task is now to maintain and improve the high levels of performance.

‘The Future is Asia’ – but only if it keeps working at it!

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