Abdul Wahab Ahmed, chairman of the UAE Football Association's (UAE FA) referee committee, has pointed to the international travels of officials from the Pro League as proof their standards are high. He was reacting to comments from the Al Jariza captain Saleh Obaid earlier this week criticising the attitudes of referees towards players in the Pro League.
The UAE FA's referee committee held their annual awards evening on Monday. As they celebrated, Abdul Wahab was a proud man. "Our referees have done 132 matches in the Pro League this season, and many more in local, Asian, Gulf, Arab and international competitions," he said. "They have officiated in 23 different countries, in 1,860 official matches and 740 friendly games. "Do these statistics not prove their merits? Among the Asian and Arab countries only two are using their local referees, UAE and Syria. We are not bringing any foreigners. So I believe this shows the success of our referees."
Obaid said on Tuesday that referees showed little respect to players: saying they shout at players. Abdul Wahab disagreed with Obaid's assessment. "That is not true. All our referees are from the UAE and have utmost respect for the players," he said. "All of them are very disciplined and courteous, and we are sure about it. As a committee, we are not going to accept a referee who is going to be like that. There is no way we are going to allow that."
Referees are able to take time off from work to focus on football without fear of losing their jobs, after a decision from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, that they are exempt from going to their offices. The referees, however, are not willing to give up their careers to focus on the sport. "All our referees have their regular jobs," said Abdul Wahab. "For example, if you see one of our best referees, Ali Hamad, he is a major in police. He is not going to leave his job.Ivan Hasek, who guided Al Ahli to the title last season before stepping down, had lauded the job done by the referees here before leaving.
"It is not easy,all the players are hot-headed," he said. "The referees have done a good job in difficult circumstances. There were no big mistakes in the big games." There was a strong sense of achievement at Monday's ceremony. Farid Ali picked up the award for best international referee, with Saeed al Houti the best assistant in the same class. Ibrahim al Muhairi was adjudged the best upcoming referee and Masood Hassan was best upcoming assistant. Mohammed Abdullah was the best official in the first class and Ahmed al Shamsi the top assistant.