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!

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