The Sanix Cup has been held at the Global Arena near Fukuoka, on the Japanese island of Kyushu, for the last nine years.

It is a highly organised youth tournament for U16 teams and attracts the top high school teams in Japan as well as overseas teams from Korea, China, England and Australia.

This year the New Zealand U16 team withdrew at the last minute because of the earthquake and subsequent nuclear problems and the Japanese U16 team were withdrawn by the JFA as a mark of respect, which included all J-League matches being postponed.

The players were technically very skilful and much of the play was possession football in midfield.

In classifying their performance, a score of 10 might be given – but this means 9 out of 10 for skills and 1 out of 10 for finishing.

These were the strengths and weaknesses of the players. They were able to play the ball in midfield with skill and confidence but they wanted to walk the ball into the goal in the same way.

It brought to mind the Spanish team which deservedly won the FIFA World Cup in South Africa but scored only eight goals, the lowest total for a cup winning team.

I attended the tournament with eight young players from AFC Project Future, a major project for the development of referees in Asia.

It was a major learning experience for the young referees. Apart from refereeing in a different environment, they also had to adapt to styles of play which are not often seen in their own countries.

The approach of the English team for example was very direct but they lacked the technical skills of their Japanese counterparts and were found wanting in the final analysis.

The young referees were there to learn and they certainly did over the four days of competition.

The Asian Football Confederation is investing a lot of money and resources in Project Future and it expects a new generation of top referees to emerge in the next five years

Referee development takes time but it is essential to the development of the game at all levels and in all countries.

  • Share/Bookmark