Ravshan Irmatov with fantastic Asian refereeing

Ravshan Irmatov was the youngest referee in this World Cup in South Africa. But his age was no problem in his first big football tournament. Actually, the Uzbezkistan refree was one of the referees who surprised the World. The Fifa awarded his good performances with 5 WC matches and the semi-final between The Netherlands and Uruguay.

Valdir Bicudo, blogging about refereeing for the Brazilian website Parana Online , and Jan ter Harmsel (me) interviewed him.

Ravshan Irmatov

He stayed at the referee headquarters of Kievits Kroon until the end of this World Cup and only two referees before him were allowed to officiate in five matches during one World Cup. Armando Archundia (Mexico) and Horacio Elizondo (Argentina) reached that number, both during the 2006 WC in Germany.

Such a debut is part of a fast development of the referee from Uzbekistan. He started his international career at the U17 World Cup in Fianland in 2003, followed by his first international (non-youth) match between Vietnam and Libanon. After that he got appointed in different tournaments. He got the 2008 final of the World Cup for club teams between LDU Quito (Ecuador) and Manchester United (England).

This resulted in two consecutive prizes as Asian referee of the year in 2008 and 2009. It’s not yet decided who’ll win 2010’s award, but it’s going to be exciting with great performances of Yuichi Nishimura too during this World Cup.

Back to the moment when Irmatov started officiating. How did you become a referee instead of a player and what was your first game as a referee?
Ravshan Irmatov: “My Father was national referee. After recovery from injury I could not continue to play football. Then he advised me to try to be a referee. I was officiating a U-13 match first time with the age of 20 and I liked it a lot. So I went step by step.”

When did you become a professional referee in Uzbekistan? How do you combine it with your job as a school football instructor?
“In 2001 I did the first time officiate a Premiere league match and in 2003 I became a FIFA referee and the same year I was appointed to the FIFA U17 World Cup in Finland. After this tournament my attitude towards the refereeing became very professional, and my football instructor job became a part time job.”

You’re the first WC referee from Uzbekistan. How important is this for your country?
“To be the referee in W.C is a dream for every Referee, and it is very important for me and my country as well. The refereeing level in Uzbekistan is good enough. On a Confederation level we are working very hard to be on the level with the best referees in the world.”

You had outstanding performances in FIFA competitions in the years before this World Cup, including the final of the Club World Cup in Japan (2008) between LDU Quito and Manchester United. Tell us what paths did you walk to be nominated for a game of such importance and what were the experiences of whistling this game?
“I am always working very hard in order to be ready for my matches and this match was a wonderful experience for me.”

How do you feel after having officiated five games during this World Cup?
“My attitude to all matches is the same – as it was at the beginning from local level and up to now on FIFA level. Every match is a new experience for the referee, I felt with each match more experienced and learned a lot from my matches.”

What goal did you set before this World Cup and did you reach it? What’s your goal for the rest of this tournament?
“My goal for the tournament was in every match to work with full commitment and to be winner at the end of every match.”

Ravshan Irmatov. Fifa.com

What do you do when you’re not officiating or training for a match?
“I am watching movies, listening music, love to be in contact with family and friends.

If you got invited to work in Brazil some soccer games would accept the invitation?

What is your best experience at this World Cup so far?
“I am learning more and more and I am gaining more experience. I am very happy that I have this opportunity.”

Impressive career of a Canadian assistant referee

Héctor Vergara (Canada) is the most experienced World Cup assistant referee with 14 matches in three different World Cups. His last match at a big tournament was last Saturday, when he, Marvin Torrentera and Armando Archundia took charge of the third place final. The Dutch Referee blog spoke with him.

Role: Assistant Referee
Country: Canada
Date of Birth: 15.12.1966
Height: 183 cm
First international: Canada-Northern Ireland (22.05.1995)

At the 2002 World Cup referees and assistants were not working in trio’s who worked together the whole tournament. Vergara worked with Collina, Ramos-Rizzo, Hall (2), Aquina and the third place final with Mane. In 2002 he worked with Archundia, with whom he started his international career in 1993 in the U17 World Cup in Japan. After the 2010 World Cup they finished together, after 18 international years, with a superb match (IMO).

Héctor Vergara (middle) when he received a medal after the third place final at the World Cup 2010 in South Africa. Photo provided by Héctor Vergara’s blog

Saturday you officiated in the match between germany and uruguay. It was your 14th match as an assistant referee at a World Cup. A record. What does that mean to you?
Héctor Vergara: “Having this ‘record’, which one day someone will break, is just a reflection of the successful career I had as a Fifa official. all the medals I have received in the 11 tournaments I have been have a special place as they all represent the sacrifices and commitment that I have made.”

You’ve also got the third place final in Korea and Japan with Saad Mane (Kuwait). Didn’t you hope (just a little bit) for the final in at your last big tournament?
“I know that we had a real shot at doing the final of the 2010 WC, but it was not meant to be and there are many factors that played into that decision. I know that we did everything in our power to give us the opportunity but the decision was out of our hands. We stayed very focused and truly enjoyed and had a great 3rd/4th place final.”

After the match Vergara wrote a nice blog about his last match. His experiece of Germany versus Uruguay: “What a game!!!! Lots of goals, lots of action, great atmosphere, rain, tears of joy, fun, pride, excitement and a great performance by our team.” If you didn’t follow his WC blog, please visit the Manitoba Soccer Blog .

How did you experience this world cup and what’s your fondest memory?
“This WC was a bit different for me because there were many things that happened that just did not seemed right – but those things were out of our control so we just moved on. We had very good games, enjoyed them and the challenge and finished on a high note. The fondest memory was the final game because it was a great game and we finished our WC career on a high note.”

Armando Archundia, Héctor Vergara and Marvin Torrentera, visiting the Paraguay – Japan match. Photo provided by Héctor Vergara’s blog

This was your last big tournament. Do you stop international refereeing now or are you giving it all for one more year?
“I don’t know as of yet. It will be a discussion that I have with my family and it will be well thought out.”

What’s the most beautiful match in your career and why?
“I had many but if i had to choose one it may be the last one on saturday – simply because it was such a great game and we worked so well together that it allowed us to go out on top and show the world the quality of our officiating.”

Is there a message you want to give to my blog readers (f.e. about most important things for you in refereeing, on what ever level that may be)?

“For me learning the basics of refereeing and the simple things on and off the field are very critical for a successful career. Working about what you can control and constantly working at improving your game no matter what level you are at is very important.”

Facts about referees in World Cup finals

Some more statistics about the World Cup. Fifa announced today that Howard Webb will get the final of 2010’s World Cup in South Africa. The last English referee was Jack Taylor in the match between The Netherlands and West Germany. In all 19 WC finales (including 2010) there were 4 referees from Britain.

Referees in World Cup finals

2010 Howard Webb (England)
2006 Horacio Elizondo (Argentina)
2002 Pierluigi Collina (Italy)
1998 Said Belgola (Marocco)
1994 Sandor Puhl (Hungary)
1990 Edgardo Codesal Mendez (Mexico)
1986 Romualdo Arppi Filho (Brazil)
1982 Arnaldo Coelho (Brazil)
1978 Sergio Gonella (Italy)
1974 Jack Taylor (England)
1970 Rudolf Glöckner (East Germany)
1966 Gottfried Dienst (Switzerland)
1962 Nickolaj Latychev (Russia)
1958 Maurice Guigue (France)
1954 William Ling (England)
1950 George Reader (England)
1938 Geroge Capdeville (France)
1934 Ivan Eklind (Sweden)
1930 Jan Langenus (Belgium)
Source: Fifa

Number of referees per country
4 England
2 Italy
2 France
2 Brazil
1 Argentina
1 Hungary
1 Sweden
1 Belgium
1 Marocco
1 Switzerland
1 Mexico
1 East Germany
1 Russia

Youngest referees in a World Cup final

Everyone is talking about the age of Ravshan Irmatov (32), who got five matches during this World Cup. But he wouldn’t be the youngest if he got the final this year.

29 Ivan Eklind from Sweden (1934)
38 Howard Webb (2010; he’ll become 39 on the 14th of July)
39 Jan Langenus from Belgium (1930)
39 George Capdeville from France (1938)
39 Arnaldo coelho from Brazil (1982)
39 Edgardo Codesal Mendez from Mexico (1990)
39 Sandor Puhl from Hungary (1994)

Oldest referee in a World Cup final

These days there’s an age limit for international refereeing at 45. Earlier World Cups proved that also older referees are able to get the most important match in the world.

54 George Reader from England (1950)
51 Rudolf Glöckner from East Germany (1970)
49 Nickolaj Latychev from Russia (1962)

Total number of yellow cards in World Cup finals: 40
Maradona is the only player with two yellow cards in World Cup finals who’s not sent off. And yes, it was against the same opponent: West Germany. In both finals in 1986 (win) and 1990 (loss) he got one yellow card.

Total number of red cards in World Cup finals: 4
Monzón and Dezotti (both from Argentina) were sent off in 1990. Marcel Desailly during France’s WC win in the home country against Brazil. And the last red card was from Zinedine Zidane in the most recent World Cup final in 2006 in Germany.

New and updated World Cup referee stats

More and updated stats about the World Cup referees.

Most cards this World Cup
Howard Webb: 17 yellow cards (in 3 matches)
Yuichi Nishimura: 15 yellows (including one second yellow card) and 1 red card (in 4 matches)
Khalil Al Ghamdi: 15 yellow cards and 1 red card (in just 2 matches, so his average number of cards per match is the highest during the South Africa World Cup)

Lowest average number of cards
1 by Michael Hester: 1 card in 1 match
2,66 by Ravshan Irmatov: 8 yellows in 3 matches (Saturday he’ll officiate his 4th match)
3 by Massimo Busacca: 2 yellows and 1 red in 1 match
3 by Wolfgang Stark: 9 yellows in 3 matches
3 by Viktor Kassai: 9 yellows in 3 matches
3 by Roberto Rosetti: 5 yellows and 1 red in two matches

Youngest/oldest referee (years/days)
24y 193d Juan Gardeazabal, ESP 1958
27y 62d Francisco Mateucci, URU 1930
53y 236d George Reader, ENG 1950

Most red cards
6 Arturo Brizio Carter, MEX 1994-1998
5 Joël Quiniou, FRA 1986-1994
4 Jamal Al Sharif, SYR 1986-1994
4 Felipe Ramos Rizo, MEX 2002
4 Graham Poll, ENG 2006
4 Valentin Ivanov, RUS 2006

Refereed most matches
8 Joël Quiniou, FRA 1986-1994
8 Jorge Larrionda 2006-*
7 Jan Langenus, BEL 1930-1938
7 Benjamin Griffiths, WAL 1950-1958
7 Juan Gardeazábal, ESP 1958-1966
7 Ali Bujsaim, UAE 1994-2002
7 Carlos Simon 2002-*
7 Frank De Bleeckere, BEL 2006-*
7 Benito Archundia, MEX 2006-*
6 Ivan Eklind, SWE 1934-1950
6 Arthur Ellis, ENG 1950-1958
6 Nickolaj Latychev, URS 1958-1962
6 Jamal Al Sharif, SYR 1986-1994
6 Arturo Brizio Carter, MEX 1994-1998
6 Gamal Ghandour, EGY 1998-2002
6 Roberto Rosetti, ITA 2006-*
6 Oscar Ruiz, COL 2002-*
Jorge Larrionda has officiated 4 matches during this World Cup and now holds the record with Joël Quiniou.

Carlos Simon is not sent home and got two good performances. There’s still a chance of him getting his 8th World Cup match. Frank De Bleeckere also got the chance to reach the amount of 8 matches, because he officiated 3 matches so far in SA.

During this World Cup Jorge Larrionda has officiated four matches, but he was send home after the controversial (non-)goal by Frank Lampard against Germany. Rosetti is also back home after an clear offside goal from Argentina against Mexico.

For everyone who missed the appointments of the quarter finals on my Twitter page: HOL-BRA Nishimura URU-GHA Benquerenca ARG-GER Irmatov PAR-SPA Batres.

Refereed most matches in a tournament
5 Horacio Elizondo, ARG 2006
5 Benito Archundia, MEX 2006
4 John Langenus, BEL 1930
4 Nikolai Latyshev, URS 1962
4 José Ramiz Wright, BRA 1990
4 Sandor Puhl, HUN 1994
4 Joel Quiniou, FRA 1994
4 José Torres Cadena, COL 1994
4 Franck De Bleeckere, BEL 2006
4 Lubos Michel, SVK 2006
4 Jorge Larrionda, URU 2006 and 2010
4 Roberto Rosetti, ITA 2006
4 Ravshan Irmatov, UZB 2010*
4 Hector Baldassi, ARG 2010*
4 Yuichi Nishimura, JAP 2010*

Baldassi officated three matches in the group stage and 1 match in the round of the last 16. Yuichi Nishimura refereed yesterday in the quarter final between Holland and Brazil. Ravshan Irmatov will officiate his 4th match on Saturday 3rd of June. Will he get the final?

And for everyone who missed the appointments of the quarter final stage via my Twitter account: HOL-BRA Nishimura URU-GHA Benquerenca ARG-GER Irmatov PAR-SPA Batres.

In a few days I’ll publish an interview with Jaap Uilenberg about the movie Kill the referee and next week about Dutch refereeing.

Have a good day, and if you have some good ideas for my blog, just let me know.

Update: 10 referees available for final

The Fifa has reduced the referee squad in South Africa from 29 to 19 referees. Here’s the list with referees who are still in the tournament (and between brackets who are sent home).

Update: Only 10 referees are still eligible for the final.

(Mohd Salleh is sent home before QF; Al Ghamdi before semi-finals)

(Coulibaly is sent home before QF; Maillet before semi-finals)

North America
(Aguilar is sent home before QF; Batres before semi-finals)

South America
(Vazquez and Larrionda are sent home before QF; Baldassi and Simon before semi-finals)

No referee any more
(O’Learry is sent home before QF; Hester before semi-finals)

De Bleeckere
(Busacca, Rosetti, Lannoy and Hansson are sent home before QF; Stark, Undiano and Benquerenca before semi-finals)

Do you agree that Busacca has to fly back to Switzerland? What’s your opinion of the new Fifa list? And who’s your favourite to officiate in the final?

First appointments for the WC final round

The first referees the first matches in the knock-out stage of the World Cup 2010 in South Africa are appointed by Fifa.

Match 49: Uruguay – Korea with Wolfgang Stark.
Match 50: USA – Ghana with Viktor Kassai.
Match 51: Germany – England with Jorge Larrionda.
Match 52: Argentina – Mexico with Roberto Rosetti.

Join the discussion of which referee deserves a spot in the finals on the Dutch Referee blog and read the World Cup refereeing review.

Review on World Cup refereeing

The group stage of this World Cup has almost finished. The referees today where doing good. Howard Webb has a very solid performance in a crazy match. I think he’s up for a place at the final sixteen. But he’s not the only candidate. A review of World Cup refereeing 2010.

Swiss newspaper Blick blames referee Al Ghamdi for the loss against Chile:'Ref, you camel'.

The first round was good for the referees, as mentioned in the guest blog ‘Golden medal for the referees by the befriended Brazilian journalist Valdir Bicudo.

But just a few hours after I published the blog there were some controversial moments in the match between USA and Slovenia. Malinese referee Koman Coulibaly disallowed a last minute goal by the Americans (see video), which caused a lot of criticism. Dear (American) readers, what about Dempsey’s offence in the first minute?

In the first weeks I’ve never heard the sports programs on television talk about the referees. But that changed. And I totally agree with the tweet after the match between Brazil and Ivory Coast by Grant Wahl, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated.

“I’ll say it again: I love this sport, but I tire of how often the postgame discussion centers on the officiating.”

How was the referee coverage in your countries’ sports programmes?

Tomorrow are the last matches in the group stage. The final rounds are almost ready to begin. But who should be officiating that matches? My top 5 referees (in no particular order): Howard Webb, Ravshan Irmatov, Hector Baldassi, Carlos Simon and Wolfgan Stark.

Update: Fifa announced the first referees of the final round.

Which referees should be send home and who deserves a spot in one of the finals? Who’s your favourite for the final? Please let me now your opinion in the comments section below.