There is no denying that Brunei Darussalam has been ambitious in paving a career path for its football players and coaches. However, one less talked about area of the sport is refereeing.
Being a referee offers the opportunity to become an expert in the field, thus providing instant contribution to the game.
At present, there is a pool of referees of various classes, including those recognised by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
The National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) has underlined the importance of refereeing as an important element of football in ensuring the rules are properly followed.
According to NFABD President Pengiran Haji Matusin bin Pengiran Haji Matasan, the Football Referee Association “is an important pillar in any football club. It plays a significant role in conducting football matches in ensuring that it runs well and in accordance with the laws of the game”.
Football referees have to meet a certain criteria in the same manner as coaches by attending specialised courses and workshops to determine their level of qualification.
In supporting the development of these referees, courses and workshops have been facilitated by certified instructors to help in achieving the level of professionalism and quality in the referees to match their counterparts overseas.
The NFABD has expressed hopes that local referees are not only equipped with knowledge of the profession but are also capable of demonstrating performance required at top-tier football.
The national governing body has also provided support in improving the standards of refereeing in the country while calling for them to focus on the requisites of technical competence and fitness in attaining qualification.
The country has always been able to produce top-notch football referees, especially on the continental stage, to garner a good reputation. An example is Haji Tamat, who has earned an enormous respect in the refereeing community due to his immense qualities and extraordinary fitness.
More recently, Abdul Hakim bin Mohd Haidi has emerged as the next referee to watch. Not only has he been the leading match official in local matches, he has also refereed in countless high profile matches regionally, such as competitions organised by the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF).
Being a FIFA-recognised referee has opened doors to major competitions in the region, be it club or international level.
In reviving the glory of yesteryear’s homegrown refereeing talents, Abdul Hakim’s greatest achievement to date came last January when he was appointed the fourth official in an AFC Cup playoff match between Svay Rieng FC and Master 7 FC.
His latest milestone on the continental scene is also proof that there are opportunities in reaching the next tier of refereeing through the AFC Cup and the AFC Champions League, which are seen as the springboards to the higher level of the profession in the region.
During the closing ceremony of an MA Refereeing course earlier this year, Pengiran Haji Matusin said, “When you are knowledgeable, there are no problems in facing countries that are more developed because people will not look at you based on your size; instead, they will look at you based on what you know and the knowledge you impart.”