Up your game and invest in refs, urges ex-World Cup official

Subkhiddin Mohd Salleh

Football refereeing is evolving rapidly, what with the introduction of VAR (video assistant referee) and constant rule changes or additions to uplift the game.

In Malaysia, however, we are not keeping pace with these developments because the decision makers do not seem to be on the ball, says former international referee Subkhiddin Mohd Salleh.

The former teacher should know what he’s talking about, having been at the forefront in the refereeing world for many years.

Subkhiddin served as fourth official at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and was a referees technical instructor at last year’s World Cup in Russia.

With such credentials, together with his wealth of experience, it was only natural for him to have been appointed in March 2017 to lead the FA of Malaysia’s referees committee and be part of the executive committee.

But it was never a level playing field for Subkhiddin right from the first whistle, leaving him disappointed and a lot more unnerved. Disappointed because the decision makers did not pay much heed, if any, to his professional views.

Unnerved because disgruntled football fans made personal attacks on social media against him and his family after poor refereeing marred the Malaysia Cup final between Perak and Terengganu in late October last year.

That was a double yellow card in Subkhiddin’s eyes and he marched out dejectedly in November last year, barely 20 months into the job.

He’s at the sidelines now, no more playing defence and fending off the barrage of attacks after having been let down by his “teammates”.

It is, however, far from game over for Subkhiddin.

He has not let up in his quest to improve the standard of refereeing in Malaysia. And he’s doing it in an entertaining and creative manner, composing pantun (poems) that cryptically tell the sorry state of things on and off the field.

It’s Subkhiddin’s turn to flash the card, but with noble intentions, at what he deems inept officials. He says the ball is still at their feet but they should start kicking it towards goal.

Here, Subkhiddin tells Twentytwo13 what it’s all about.

“The pantun (laughs)? It’s just me expressing myself. A lot of statements and promises have been made but we haven’t seen them translating into reality. We have still a lot of catching up to do and everything seems to revolve around personalities instead of the sport.

There was talk of sending 25 of our referees to Japan for ‘quality improvement’ and that they were supposed to return as professional referees … has it been done? Remember VAR (video assistant referee)? What has happened since?

We need more programmes for referees. For footballers to be good, they must undergo more drills. It’s the same with referees. There is also a need for development officers at state and district levels. The module at the national level can trickle down to the lower levels. The referees must review matches as often as possible.

But it’s not easy getting clips. Just look at our live games. How many cameras are used to cover the match, how many angles are there? We often see one angle that zooms in and zooms out. And people are making judgments, offside or not, based on that one angle. So how are referees supposed to learn if there is only one wide angle throughout the match?

We have instructors who have undergone courses abroad. It’s best to rope them in. The Asian Football Confederation (based in Kuala Lumpur) has instructors too who will be able to assist. We don’t need all but at least the top 20 referees to undergo practical training often and they will then transfer their knowledge to the other referees in their home states.

We need to take a hard look at how much is actually spent on developing referees … on seminars, training … and not how much has gone for their allowances. To develop (good referees), we must invest.”