x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Omani football referee has sights set on 2022 World Cup in Qatar

An Omani referee has set himself the target of officiating at the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar after completing a prestigious training course organised by Fifa.

Ahmed Alkaf, a football referee from Oman, stands beside the Bobby Moore statue at Wembley Stadium after taking part in a referees development programme in London.
Ahmed Alkaf, a football referee from Oman, stands beside the Bobby Moore statue at Wembley Stadium after taking part in a referees development programme in London.

An Omani referee has set himself the target of officiating at the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar after completing a prestigious training course organised by Fifa.

Ahmed Abubakar spent last week training with Premier League referees in England as part of his education.

"Project Future", a brainchild of Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president, was set up in 2007 to identify the next generation of referees.

"It was a great opportunity," Abubakar, 27, said. "It was good experience for the future. We came to learn from the professional referees in the Premier League. We had many discussions and lessons and they explained some situations. We trained with them and did fitness work."

Abubakar, who only started refereeing in 2007, has made swift progress and hopes to continue it by joining the Fifa list to referee international matches.

"I have my targets," he said. "The first is to become a Fifa referee and then an elite referee in Asia and to referee in a World Cup. My ambition is that I want to referee the final in 2022. That is a good target and a long-term ambition. I must work hard to achieve it."

Refereeing at the top level of international football has traditionally been dominated by Europeans and South Americans, but Abubakar is encouraged by the rise of Asian officials.

"For me, [Uzbekistan's] Ravshan Irmatov is a top referee," he said. "He did very well in the last World Cup. He refereed five matches at a very consistent level."

The Project Future course is run by George Cumming, the head of refereeing for the Scottish Football Association for 12 years and at Fifa for two-and-a-half years, including for the 2002 World Cup. He has been impressed by Abubakar.

"Ahmed has strong body language, speaks good English and has played the game," he said. "He has the potential to do very well. We had him in Japan in March last year, he refereed the final of the [international youth tournament] Sanix Cup. I selected him for it. Ahmed has got the ability to do very well."

Cumming, who was head of referee education at the AFC, said: "Asia is unique in the way they look at development of the football. Project Future is to produce the next generation of top Asian referees.

"It is a two-year course with specific courses in Kuala Lumpur, Japan, India, the Maldives and Tashkent. They get really intensive training and have been on six refereeing training courses.

"The age limit is 25 when they begin it. The English visit is the finishing school. They get to see how professional referees work, they talked about ProZone and sports science and got to work and live with top referees."

Cumming is optimistic about the future of Asian officiating. "The standard of refereeing in Asia has been high with two involved in the final stages of the World Cup. Now there is some fantastic talent out there."

 

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