Local ref Taqi off to U-20 World Cup
One of Singapore's top match officials to be video assistant referee at tourney
He dreams of one day emulating Shamsul Maidin and the late George Suppiah, and officiate at a World Cup match.
Local referee Taqi Jahari will take another step towards fulfilling that ambition, when he travels to South Korea in May for the Under-20 World Cup.
The 31-year-old has been appointed as a video assistant referee (VAR), an appointment that is undergoing a two-year trial.
The VAR was used for the first time at last December's Fifa Club World Cup and will be used at the Confederations Cup in June, and U-17 World Cup in October.
It is also being considered for next year's World Cup in Russia.
"This is a very exciting opportunity for me, because VARs are a new development," said Taqi, who officiated last night's high-profile World Cup qualifier between Iran and China at the 95,000-capacity Azadi Stadium in Teheran. Iran won 1-0.
VARs are given access to all broadcast feeds inside a video operations room, enabling them to provide information to the match referee in order to correct clear mistakes in "match-changing" situations, such as goals, penalty decisions, and direct red cards.
Taqi was appointed by Fifa for the U-20 World Cup assignment on the back of performances at various international and continental club matches in the last two years, such as those in the Asian Champions League.
He has been able to jet overseas for these appointments thanks to his employers at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).
Taqi is an executive in the FAS referees' department, which he joined in October 2015.
He said: "FAS is a very supportive employer who is always doing its best to maximise the potential of its staff, and I am grateful to the FAS management and referees' committee who have been very supportive towards my development as a referee, including the series of overseas exposure and opportunities, since I joined."
Taqi is considered one of Singapore's top young refereeing talents and has officiated several notable matches, including the first football match at the National Stadium between Juventus and a Singapore Selection side in August 2014, and another in the high-profile Barclays Asia Trophy tournament in July 2015.
He is also in the running to take charge of matches at next year's World Cup.
The only Singaporeans to referee at a World Cup are the late Suppiah (1974) and Shamsul (2006), but both were older when they were appointed.
The late Suppiah was 45 when he took charge of one game in West Germany, while Shamsul was 40 when he officiated three matches in the same country, 32 years later.
FAS' head of referees K Viswa Nathan said: "We are pleased that Taqi's good performances have been recognised with this latest appointment, which continues a rich tradition of Singaporean referees being recognised at the global level.
"Going forward, we will continue to develop Taqi and other officials with the aim of maximising their potential for selection to officiate at top-level competitions."
FAS provisional council president Lim Kia Tong added: "The FAS and the referees' committee have spent much time and effort in the development of our committed officials in recent years, and will continue to identify new ways to further strengthen the capabilities of our officials.
"At the same time, we will make improvements in the various areas we are lacking."