PETALING JAYA: Former referee Mohd Nazri Abdullah of Malaysia is among four-top ranked “Refereeing Instructors” appointed for the FIFA World Cup Finals in Germany.
The 51-year-old father of three from Kedah, who is currently attached to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) as director of referees, said he considered the assignment as a lifetime achievement.
“It is a great honour to be picked for this massive stint, my first ever in the World Cup,” said a beaming Nazri after having missed out opportunities to referee at the World Cup in 1994 and 1998.
“It was a bitter pill to swallow, as Malaysia never had a referee in the history of the World Cup series.”
Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid of the Armed Forces and Mat Lazim Awang Hamat of Terengganu came the closest as “assistant referees” (linesmen) at the World Cup in 1998 and 2002 respectively.
Nazri was a strong candidate from Asia for two World Cup Finals but failed to get past the final hurdle on each occasion leaving him depressed and dejected after 16 years of blowing the whistle.
However, little did Nazri realise that there was still hope and light at the end of the tunnel that he would be at the World Cup in a new role as a referee instructor.
Besides Nazri, the other three referee instructors for the World Cup are Essey Bahamas of the United States, Victor M. Pereira of Portugal and M. Gonzalez of Trinidad and Tobago.
They would be in charge of the 23 referees and 33 assistants for the World Cup in Germany. Nazri left to Frankfurt on Tuesday, where all the match officials would be based for the final preparatory courses and practical training before the kick-off on June 9.
“This is going to be a big challenge for the instructors and also all the match officials. Their success is ours too. If they don't perform, it would reflect on the whole organisation and us.
“But everyone is well prepared. The FIFA referees committee had started work long ahead to monitor the progress of the candidates for almost two years,” said Nazri.
Local FIFA referee Mohd Subkhiddin Salleh was another strong prospect to blow at the World Cup Finals but again the element of luck was not there as he failed in the final round of selection last month.
Nazri said he owed his success to many people including AFC president Mohammed Hammam, FA of Malaysia (FAM) president Sultan Ahmad Shah and the executive committee for his rapid career.
He worked as a referee’s development officer with FAM for five terms before moving to AFC last year.
Nazri had served as a national referee for 16 years (1984-2000), including a FIFA referee for 12 years (1988-2000) and had travelled to more than 70 countries.