World Cup referees are important for New Zealand

Two head referees from the same country at the same World Cup tournament is quite unique. This year there are three countries which provide more than one refereeing team: Uruguay (Larrionda and Vazquez), Mexico (Archundia and Rodriguez) and New Zealand (Hester and O’Leary).

The situation for the latter country is a more exceptional. There was never a referee from the New Zealand leading a match. Michael Hester from Auckland (NZ) had the premiere in last week’s World Cup match between South Korea and Greece. The Dutch Referee blog contacted Ken Wallace, the New Zealand Football Referee Development Officer. In this interview he talks about about refereeing in New Zealand and the importances of having two national referees at this World Cup.

At the World Cup in South Korea and Japan in 2002 assistant referee Paul Smith was the first and only match official from New Zealand who ever officiated at a global tournament. Michael Hester was the first Kiwi who was in full charge of a game at such a tournament. Peter O’Leary has been only a fourth official so far. How important is it for New Zealand that two referees represent the country at the World Cup?

Wallace: “It is important for all countries as it shows there is a clear pathway that leads from local parks to the biggest football tournament in the world. Potential recruits and current referees can see on tv the guys they know or can relate to. Michael Hester and Peter O’Leary have been excellent role models and have accepted their responsibility to promote football and refereeing in NZ.”

How did Michael Hester perform in last week’s match between South Korea and Greece?

“Michael Hester and his team did well. The game was easy, fair and safe and the result was determined by the players.”

Some media in Europe dislike referees who are not from Europe or South America. They say Asian, African en Oceanian referees are not good enough, because they never officiated under such a high pressure as in for example the Champions League. Do you agree with that?

“Many games have pressure but all games are played on a pitch with the same markings, according to the same laws and with 22 legs on one team and 22 legs on the other. All referees make incorrect decisions and occasionally have poor games whether or not they are refereeing in the Champions League, have refereed in the Champions League or will never referee in that competition.”

Is there any difference between the NZ referees and for example the European referees in training style or preparation?

“The game in NZ is amateur and all referees have other jobs. Referee development and training takes place at night after work or at the weekend. The FIFA Development Programme for the 2010 World Cup has been an excellent programme and has ensured that all the World Cup candidates have been able to get the same coaching and development activities.”

What’s the future of NZ refereeing?

“Referee development is simply about more and better. We want more referees and we want to make our existing cohort better. FIFA’s development programmes have been important in getting greater world-wide consistency and uniformity in the interpretation and application of the Laws of the Game. This has helped referees and given greater certainty to players and coaches.”

In Holland we’ve always problems of getting referees for all matches. Are there enough people interested in a refereeing career in your country?

“We need more referees.”

The New Zealand referees have appointments as 4th officials in the matches 17-24 at this World Cup. Hester will assist in the match between England and Algeria and O’Leary in the game France-Mexico. The appointments for the final matches in the group stages will follow next week.

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