Hakan Anaz is a referee instructor and assessor at the Asian Cup 2019. The 2014 World Cup assistant referee from Australia is now helping other referees to reach their top level. In this interview he shares his experiences during the 2019 tournament and looks at the future of refereeing in Asia. “I have no doubt that we have many world class referees in Asia who can easily referee a World Cup final in Qatar.”
Asian Cup 2019 experiences
How do you look back to the Asian Cup 2019?
“First of all I would like to thank AFC for having the faith in inviting me to their flagship tournament, the World Cup of Asia, The AFC Asian Cup. I have been Instructing and Assessing for three years now and to have been invited to this tournament was a great honor for me.”
Since Hakan Anaz retired he picked up a whole new role in the refereeing world. “My role at AFC is multi-faceted. I am a Referee Instructor and Assessor, covering all tournaments and competitions like the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup.”
PS: Kronika Sedziowska also wrote a worth-reading refereeing analysis of this tournament with clips. Check out their story.
AFC Referee Academy
“I also work at the AFC Referee Academy with my fellow Instructors Fernando Tresaco Gracia, Farkhad Abdullaev and Alejo Perez LeGuizamon. I am Lead Instructor at the Referee Academy for batch 2018. Working with these gentleman is great and I think for me being involved in such a great program is motivational to me. The AFC Referee Academy is the only football academy in the world which involves in-class, remote and practical refereeing education over an intensive 4 year period. From my 2018 batch, I can already see some potential World Cup referees and should they make it, I will be ever so happy I was part of their dream.
Being together with many top refs together
At the Asian Cup, I think the highlight for me was the first day in the seminar room when all the best referees and Instructors were gathered in our conference room. I looked around the room and felt awed to be part of this great tournament. Working with best referees in Asia was great, my goal has always to make a difference. I think honesty and integrity is something I always hold dear to me, and if you can do this, the respect you get is assured I’m sure.
“Actually, I trained as intensely as the referees during the Asian Cup and many of the referees made comment that I should come back to refereeing. However, my active refereeing finished after my World Cup 2014 assignment.” More about his momorable 2014 below.
The level is getting higher
“My new challenge is to develop new World Cup referees for 2022 and beyond. Hence my keen involvement in the AFC Referee Academy. “, says Hakan Anaz. During the 2018 World Cup Alireza Faghani was close to being the first Asian World Cup final referee. In the end he officiated the 3rd place match.
“I was fortunate to have assessed Alireza Faghani in his round of 16 match at the Asian Cup. Again, he demonstrated how great strides refereeing in Asia has taken. The bar is constantly rising. I was also fortunate to have assessed another up and coming referee who I have no doubt will be at the next World Cup in 2022.”
World Cup final in Qatar
“If you look at the Asian referees at the last World Cup and the current referees at the Asian Cup, I have no doubt that we have many world class referees who can easily referee a World Cup final in Qatar. To achieve this goal, AFC are working extremely hard to make AFC Referees the best in the World.”
Recruiting new top referees
“My other roles in AFC is as a recruiter where I will assess potential referees into inclusion to the Elite group of referees and also as a video assessor. As can be seen, I am extremely busy at AFC which means I don’t have time for a full time job. My passion is refereeing and I put 100% into any position I do. I have had some potential job opportunities in refereeing education from countries in Asia, and its definetely something I would consider in the future if the right position came along. But at the moment, I am very happy working with AFC.”
2014: a wonderful year as assistant referee
Earlier on I spoke with Anaz after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A great experience to learn from as fellow referee. In this part Anaz shares his experiences and gives you some solid advice.
How did you experience the tournament in Brazil?
Hakan Anaz: “The experience that summer in Brazil was truly special. FIFA told us that not many referees get to go to a World Cup. A World Cup in the atmosphere in Brazil is a once in a lifetime experience, truly unforgettable experience. All the referees knew how special is would be. Having said that, all the referees were there to referee games and all the referees just wanted to get out onto the park. We trained 36 out of the 39 days we were there, so we had excellent preparation during the tournament.”
Working 20 years for this moment
“Team Australia (with Ben Williams and Matthew Cream) were fortunate to have 3 games during the tournament. After appointments were announced by FIFA, all the referees congratulated the respective referees. It was a very good atmosphere. All the referees got along very well. For me walking out before every game was special. I’ve worked 20 years for this moment and arriving on the biggest sports tournament in the world was worth all the blood , sweat and tears. It was very fulfilling. Having said that, the round of 16 game Costa Rica Vs Greece was a very pleasing experience for Team Australia because it was the first time a match trio from Australia has refereed a game in the knock-out stages.”
Hakan Anaz’ first World Cup
It was your first one WC – and probably your last one because you are 44 now. What are your goals now in refereeing? Will you stay AR on national level or do you have other ambitions?
Hakan Anaz: “I have now retired from active refereeing. My goal has always been to get to the World Cup. I achieved that. I always have been humble during my referee career and feel that going on more than you need to would be selfish, and my character is never like that. I want the next generation to have a chance at achieving what I have achieved, and I exit the stage at the highest level possible. Not many can say that. I knew the time was right to leave so I declined the contract offer by Football Federation Australia to referee further in the national league.”
Improve as referee
How did you improve yourself as referee?
Hakan Anaz: “I am my worst critic. I watch my games, even when I know the game went well, and critically analyse my decisions, positioning and performance. I have an ethos and that is “you never stop learning”. You always analyse your game and you always try to achieve a higher and higher level. I do a lot of visualisation and technical drills at training so that I am as prepared as much as I can. There is a saying “fail to prepare … prepare to fail”, My preparation – both physical and technical – was at a very high standard prior to the tournament and I’m sure our Round of 16 appointment we got our reward for all 3 of us.”
Lasting friendships with referees
What else brought 2014 for you as referee?
Hakan Anaz: “One of the most important for me was not only the memories, but also the lasting friendships. This is also important because there will always come a time when referees will no longer officiate. What is always long lasting is your friendships you make along the way. I have made some great friends who I always stay in contact with which is something that means a lot to me. Your fellow Dutch referee, Bjorn Kuipers, his assistants Sander and Erwin, was some good friendships I made in the 2 years on the candidates program.”
“2014 also bought to me retirement from refereeing but also now a new phase in my life. I now have more time with my family which I want to devote more time to. I have a young daughter who is very happy now to have her dad spend more time at home. I enjoy family time.”
Hakan Anaz (left), referee Ben Williams (center) and Matthew Cream. Photo provided by referee.
Becoming a referee
Back to your roots. How did you become a referee?
“I have played football since I was 7. I love football. I played until I was 23 at which time I knew I could not make the highest level of football in Australia. So I wanted to remain active in football. A friend of mine was a referee so I decided to give it a go. After about 6 months, I enjoyed it so much, I decided to devote more of my time and energy towards refereeing. As I moved higher up the ranks, my goals changed and I set myself higher and higher goals. When we were put on the candidates program back in 2012, we knew that it would be a very intense program as FIFA wanted only the best referees and assistants at the Brazil World Cup. We kept working harder and harder, always knowing that there was never any guarantee of being selected to go to Brazil. We were always well grounded and knew we had to keep working hard.”
Personality of a referee
I’ve seen many referees with Turkish roots climbing the refereeing ranks in other countries. Aytekin in Germany, Gozubuyuk in The Netherlands and of course you in Australia. What is the reason by their and your success?
Hakan Anaz: “I think ones personality is very important here. It does not matter if you are from such and such a country, the reason for anyone’s success is hard work, and being humble. Of course it is rather special when you have lived your life in one country and you are appreciated in the country of your parents birth. But there is no substitute for hard work. I would like to believe that we were chosen because all the instructions and directives that FIFA wanted of us, we fulfilled and then some.”
“The planning that the 3 of us went through for the 2 and a half year on the program was so meticulous I think in the end paid off with our selection. And of course, there is the performances on the field. Being honest and humble is very important. But also applying the laws of the game, and never compromising on your morals is also very important. Respect for yourself and fair play.”
Advice for young referees
What advice would you give to (young) referees?
Hakan Anaz: “If you want to achieve the highest in whatever you do, be it as a player, coach or referee, then be prepared to work hard. Planning is important. Always be humble. Always review your past matches and always learn from other referees.”
Listen to your mentors
“When I started refereeing, I had two mentors who I was always asking for advice, trying to understand what the art of refereeing is about. Learning from other referees is important, but also to take advice. If another more experienced referee gives you advice, be prepared to listen and appreciate what he/she is saying. Refereeing is not black and white, sometimes it is grey. It’s how a referee reacts to these grey areas is important. And always let your personality come through in your refereeing. And always be in position, this helps “sell” your decision. Whether as a referee or as an assistant, if you are in position then you can sell your decision. Finally, enjoy refereeing. If you don’t enjoy refereeing this will show in your performance.”
Read the interview with Ben Williams, Hakan Anaz’ refereeing partner during the World Cup, on my blog.