July 22, 2012

2012 Olympic Games Preview

Commencing on 27 July 2012, London's 2012 Olympic Games are certainly the most captivating competition of the year due to its large variety of sports that will be followed by not less than four billions spectators (at 2008 Olympic Games Beijing, it was 4,4 billions over the world). Naturally, football may not miss so that FIFA will again attempt to provide an international showpiece, even though the tournament is not completely joined by the biggest football nations, which is however typical of this sort of tournament.

The football competition even starts on 25 July (women), respectively on 26 July (men).
A number of 16 teams have qualified for the final competition, mostly by having reached a certain stage at a specific youth tournament in their continental federation, while the women's tournament only contains 12 teams.
Consequently, FIFA has appointed 84 match officials to take charge of the 56 Olympic matches. I will however solely focus on the men's competition.
As Carol Anne Chenard's blog is revealing, the referees and assistant referees are getting full support by FIFA Referee Comissioner Massimo Busacca who is leading certain briefing sessions intending to create uniformity in the referees' behaviour and decisions. And the second message that is certainly conveyed by her blog is that the thrill of anticipation is rapidly accelerating.


The importance of very good Asian officials has been stressed in this blog several times and again they will be certainly needed in the early and advanced stage of the competition, since a huge amount of European-South American duels seems to be unavoidable. 

Obviously, there is no FIFA competition or no competition in general where AFC officials are able to act without Uzbekistan's Ravshan Irmatov - this blog's 2011 World Referee. Having been in charge of three FIFA U17 World Cups, 2008 and 2011 FIFA Club World Cup finals and specially five 2010 FIFA World Cup matches including the opener and a semifinal (not considering his achievements within the AFC zone), he seems to be the man of the moment. FIFA's prospective list of referees contains seven officials from the Asian zone, one of them, a promising Iranian talent named Alireza Faghani has got no chance to show his skills in a FIFA competition so far and again, FIFA preferred to nominate Irmatov. The question is "why?". The only answer is that they cannot relinquish his abilities and class, furthermore (although the football being played at Olympic Games is certainly not the best) the reputation and tradition of this competition is thus big that a nomination for that is to be considered as a reward for every official. Olympic Games are still missing in his palmarès - not anymore. He will be assisted by Abdukhamidullo Rasulov, AFC's assistant referee of the year 2011, also coming from Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyz official Bakhadyr Kochkarov, who has been specially rewarded by his federation after he had conducted five World Cup matches despite of having feared for his family's life having been imperiled during armed conflicts in Kyrgyzstan. Without any doubt, Irmatov, Rasulov and Kochkarov form the most probable referee team for the Gold Medal Match at Wembley Stadium.

The second candidate for the final is Japanese official Yuichi Nishimura (photo, ZIMBIO). Born in 1971, he has surely counted to the top 5 of 2010 FIFA World Cup's referees as well, having taken control over four matches including the quarterfinal between the Netherlands and Brazil, followed by two nominations as the fourth official of a semifinal and the final at Webb's side. His international palmarès is not as big as Irmatov's, it has been his first Olympic Games call-up, too. Assisted by Toru Sagara and Toshiyuki Nagi, there will have to be a miracle that this team will stay at home in 2014, although one may not be too early with such predictions. Unfortunately, Nishimura was sent home after group stage at 2011 AFC Cup Qatar, where he oversaw the opener match. 
Contrary to Irmatov, one cannot expect a perfect performance by him, at least I state that on the basis of the international matches one could observe. But what you can expect is a good performance and a man who smiles more than his colleagues and who does not act as a machine or something like that.

One of the eight officials, who will make their FIFA international tournament bow in Great Britain, will be Australia's Benjamin Williams, a promising as well as a controversial referee. After Matthew Breeze had not managed to be appointed for a World Cup tournament, the Australian federation probably built their hopes on Williams. Born in 1977, he could be indeed an option for the next years. Some aspects are however weird when talking about him. 
After two performances which had been mostly regarded as suspicious or even biased ones, he again insinuated controversies at 2011 AFC Cup Qatar. In the second match of the competition between Kuwait and China, he sent off a Kuwaiti due to a violent conduct, where he scandalously missed a more than obvious penalty kick to Kuwait and where his assistant referee Ben Wilson, who has by the way retired in the meantime for personal reasons, oversaw that a Kuwaiti shot clearly crossed the line (VIDEO 1, VIDEO 2, VIDEO 3). He received one further match as a fourth official and was then sent home. Therefore, it is surprising that he is still on the prospective list and even joins a competition like that. In addition, his countryman Peter Green has shown very good performances in recent World Cup qualifiers, has refereed more difficult and on paper better matches in the past and showed courage and skills. A switch could have been adequate, but the Australian federation's power was probably bigger.
Williams will be accompanied by Matthew Cream and Hakan Anaz.


2012 Africa Cup of Nations was the first tournament which we managed to completely cover with our report system. The main result of our work was that Bakary Gassama of Gambia, until then totally unknown in the international referee pool, showed two excellent performances when he proved that he is a cool and courageous referee despite of his little experience. He was therefore - according to our marks - the best referee of the tournament. Four months later, he appeared on FIFA's prospective list for 2014 World Cup Brazil for the first time, a very good decision by FIFA. What we had seen was obviously also seen by FIFA observers, which followed the tournament closely, also in the preparation stages prior to the opener whistle of the tournament.
The Olympic Games will be his first competition on FIFA level and is certainly crucial for his further development. He is probably the outsider on the list for the next World Cup, but we have seen what happened to those outsiders during the last World Cup.
Gassama, born in 1979, will be accompanied by Jason Damoo from Seychelles Islands and Angesom Ogbamariam of Eritrea, latter may exhibit a huge international experience as well.

There has been a significant change on FIFA's prospective list by the way, since young official Kacem Ben Naceur of Tunisia was replaced by his older compatriot Slim Jedidi (photo). He is internationally considered a dark horse, no idea what he can reach. His biggest advantage could be his assistant referee Bechir Hassani, who already joined 2010 FIFA World Cup at Eddy Maillet's side. Sherif Hassan from Egypt will be his second assistant referee.
Jedidi took charge of two matches at 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, both in group stage. 
During the Olympic Games, Jedidi and his team could "suffer" from a small but remarkable handicap. If they are devout muslims, they will practice the Lenten ritual Ramadan that has started on 20th July, which could perhaps cause mental and physical deficits on the pitch and while training.


Mexico's Roberto García (photo, Lasellecion) is one of six CONCACAF officials who will act at the tournament. He already participated in 2011 FIFA U17 World Cup in his home country. García there officiated five matches, three of them with Brazilian involvement including their loss in the third-place match against Germany. In the first four matches, one could receive a flawless impression of this referee, unfortunately, he blatantly fell for an obvious dive in the last match of the competition.
In 2009, he had refereed one match at Gold Cup, before he took control over the 2nd leg of the Mexican league final in April 2012 between Santos Laguna and Monterrey.
Despite of a failed fitness test in 2011, he has been hence appointed along with one of the most experienced assistant referees at this tournament, José Camargo, and Alberto Morín. Also strengthened by his excellent assistant referees and his good first international tournament, he is from my point of view a third bet for the final.
His tactical style is less hectical than his compatriot Rodriguez' approach, which he applied in all his matches at U17 World Cup.

US American Mark Geiger will head the second North American team. He had been nominated for 2011 FIFA U20 World Cup and refereed four matches in Colombia including the final between Brazil and Portugal. One could receive split impressions from him, after all, he proved to be a reliable referee. Mark Hurd from the United States and Canadian official Joe Fletcher complete his team, which worked at the U20 World Cup in this form as well.
Despite of his final nomination, I personally do not think that he will get the chance to referee a K.O. stage match, even though it must be clear that everything depends on the performances shown at the tournament.
Geiger is by the way blogging together with Mark Hurd and the US American female referees Kari Seitz, Veronica Perez and Marlene Duffy.


Bolivian official Raúl Orosco's career is immensely rising having reached its present peak by his presence on the short list for 2014 World Cup. In 2011, he more or less came out of the blue. After an average appearance at CONMEBOL's Campeonato Sudamericano sub-20, he got a call-up for Argentina's Copa America, where he whistled three matches including a difficult but excellently solved semifinal clash. His performance in the World Cup qualfying match between Chile and Peru was according to our South American observers good.
Nonetheless, his performances in the South American club competitions still indicate a lot of room or even need for improvement. Born in 1979, this Olympic Games assignment should be only the first step in an increasing international career. Finally, Orosco will be assisted by Efraín Castro, having caught my attention when he advised Sergio Pezzotta to dismiss two players in Copa America's quarterfinal between Brazil and Paraguay, and Arol Valda. Both are definitely two experienced assistant referees. Latter was already active at 2004 Olympic Games in Olympia's motherland Greece.

One of South America's rising stars is Colombia's Wilmar Roldán (photo, hechosencolombia), who took control over 2012 Copa Libertadores final in Sao Paulo two weeks ago. Having followed in Oscar Ruiz' footsteps, he had already refereed his first World Cup qualifier when he was aged 29.
There is not too much to say about him, he has from my point of view the potential to manifest himself at the very top of South America's refereeing and I predict that this Copa Libertadores final will be surely not the last one. Our South American mates can confirm this impression, at least their reports are revealing (very) good performances during the last months. Born in 1980, his future is widely open, he is to my mind the current no.1 or 2 in South America, although such rankings are naturally difficult to make and mean nothing at all. At least he must be regarded as a very safe bet for Brazil's World Cup.
2010 FIFA World Cup participant Humberto Clavijo as well as Eduardo Díaz will assist Roldán in Great Britain.

Juan Soto is more or less a South American surprise bag. He has not received very many matches in Copa Libertadores, nor in Copa Sudamericana. Additionally, he only got one match at 2011 Copa America Argentina where he refereed Chile's 2-1 win over Mexico.
Born in Caracas in 1977, Soto is probably the referee with the smallest chances to get on the final list for 2014 World Cup. His biggest South American achievements are a semifinal in 2010 Copa Libertadores and the first leg of 2009's Recopa Sudamericana.
We have to wait for his performances at this tournament, until now, I cannot say too much.
Jorge Urrego (1981) and Carlos López (1982) will function as assistant referees, both from Venezuela, too.


In this confederation, the selection of those officials who will act at Olympia was not too difficult. As always, New Zealand's Peter O'Leary (photo, oceaniafootball) has been appointed for a tournament of this importance. After several youth competitions and his function as fourth official at 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, it is in my opinion time for FIFA to give those Oceanian officials more than one simple group stage tie. O'Leary has proven that he can handle bigger and more sonorous games, I have however doubts whether that is enough for a K.O. stage match. Although his international palmarès seems to indicate the fact that his international experience is huger than other referees' ones at this tournament, the opposite is correct. You cannot expect the biggest experience from a referee who normally handles matches of assuredly less quality than in other confederations' leagues in front of a few thousands or even merely hundred supporters.
Anyway, World Cup experienced Jan-Hendrik Hintz and Fijian Ravinesh Kumar (1982) will again assist him.


Having been appointed for a total number of six UEFA Champions League clashes in the last season including the particular semifinal match between Chelsea London and FC Barcelona, Dr Felix Brych (photo, ctr., ZIMBIO) has decidedly reached the international summit of referees. Without any doubt, Brych has been dramatically pushed by DFB as well as UEFA in his early years and after Wolfgang Stark has obviously already reached his best time at the sight of EURO 2012, his chances to wave the German flag at 2014 FIFA World Cup are at best, although Olympia will be his first international tournament ever. In addition, his Bundesliga performances in 2011/12 have been generally good with a few exceptions of positive and negative manner.
His regular first assistant referee Thorsten Schiffner has however suffered from an injury in the early 2012, so that he was not nominated along with Brych, but still is on the prospective list. Therefore, Mark Borsch (photo, 2nd r., ZIMBIO) and Stefan Lupp, who replaces Schiffner, will assist the Munich lawyer who came in for the suspicion of tax dodging in late 2011.
According to the marks he received by our observers in the last season of UEFA club competitions and a certain method to determine a final point score he unveiled to be the fourth best UEFA referee of 2011/12.

Englishman Mark Clattenburg's career path has been remarkable: after having convinced in his early years of Premier League officiating, he made his FIFA bow in 2006 before he was suspended by FA due to his financial condition as a businessman. A few months later, he was reinstated and fought back until he was finally promoted by UEFA to Elite Group. He furthermore accompanied Howard Webb as an additional assistant referee along with Martin Atkinson.
Before his promotion, he had been appointed by FIFA to be in charge of matches at 2011 FIFA U20 World Cup at Colombia. There, he officiated four matches; his first three performances were at a very high level, only the last, but the most important match (semifinal) was slightly inconsistent. His second assistant referee Stephen Child made a row of very good and important decisions at the tournament and accompanied Webb in his Champions League K.O. matches when Kirkup was still injured. Stephen Child will again accompany Clattenburg in this tournament, as well as Simon Beck, who also joined U20 World Cup.
One has to wait whether Howard Webb is perhaps going to draw a line under his long and successful international career, because then, Clattenburg has excellent chances to be appointed for the next FIFA World Cup.

Pavel Královec of Czech Republic is along with Clattenburg and Rocchi the only official who functioned at 2012 UEFA EURO Poland/Ukraine but will nevertheless act at Olympic Games, too. Since his last appearance was the early Group C match between Italy and Croatia as fourth official, this is surely no problem at all.
To my mind, it is a small scandale that this referee has not been promoted to UEFA Elite Group by now. A row of very good UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches of great importance and a fantastic appearance at 2011 FIFA U17 World Cup, where he showed four high quality performances and would have actually deserved the final, are obviously not enough for the men in suit to promote him. Personally, I have not found explanations for that (also and specially considering that Collum's performances have been enough..) except - as always - politics.
During the last UEFA season, his normal assistant referee Miroslav Zlamal was suddenly removed from Královec' team. Martin Wilczek is still assisting him, now along with 1969 born Antonin Kordula.
On paper, he is the worst/lowest ranked referee from UEFA zone at these Olympic Games, but I doubt that this corresponds to reality.

Norway's Svein Oddvar Moen is another striking talent UEFA has to offer. Born in 1979, he has managed by far more than his colleagues at the same age. Not many officials can exhibit a Champions League quarterfinal aged only 33, which was further really good.
After his awaited nomination for 2011 FIFA U17 World Cup Mexico, where he showed two satisfying performances in very easy matches (one in group stage, Uruguay - Rwanda and one round of 16 match, Mexico - Panama), he surprisingly received the final call-up to handle Mexico - Uruguay at Estadio Azteca with more than 90.000 spectators. This was surely one of the greatest moments in his career. He showed a brilliant performance which justified FIFA's designation, even though everybody expected Pavel Královec for that. Moen's luck was perhaps that he was already classified by UEFA as an Elite referee - contrary to the others.
Moen was probably the referee who failed scarcest to be appointed for 2012 UEFA EURO. He revealed a few weaknesses in matches like Villarreal - Napoli in the past Champions League season, he has however a decade to improve that.
Kim Thomas Haglund and Frank Andas, who failed the fitness test ahead the U17 World Cup, will assist Moen in Great Britain.

Last but not least, one of the biggest surprises the prospective list of referee for 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil has unveiled: Italian official Gianluca Rocchi. Without any doubt, his career path is pretty impressive. With a huge number of good Europa League matches, he was finally promoted to Elite in 2010 and received several smaller and then bigger Champions League encounters, which were mostly handled well. Rocchi being on this list is nonetheless surprising, since Paolo Tagliavento was actually - at least for my taste - pushed in a more tremendous way by UEFA. Besides, his Serie A season was not good at all (according to our Italian observer).
I heavily doubt that he will be able to overtake his compatriot Rizzoli, but anyway, why not. Maybe, Alfredo Trentalange's influence in FIFA's referee committee played a decisive role as well.
At this tournament, he will be accompanied by Elenito di Liberatore and Gianluca Cariolato.

You can publish your predictions for the first matchday here.


  1. Here I really can't add more, Niclas, you have written everything. I totally agree with your words, especially when you say that it's time for FIFA to apppoint OFC referees in more difficult matches. Let's wait and see. The Olympic tournament could be the suitable chance.
    I'm going to write my predictions in your link.

  2. And do not hesitate to write your pre-tournament analysis here as well, I always liked reading them.
    It is always difficult to say anything before a tournament because in the end, it always becomes completely different than expected. An example is Geiger's final appointment at u20 WC, even after the semifinals I did not think that he could be the chosen ref..

  3. DFB made interviews with Brych and Steinhaus, perhaps interesting for those who are capable of understanding German.


  4. FIFA tournaments (Under 17, Under 20, Confederations, Olympics, Club World Cup) are always interesting also for this reason. The final can be reached by a referee which is not among the candidates, before the tournament.
    This happens due to many reasons, but first of all, of course, confederations rule in the appointments. If a UEFA team will be in final, no hope for UEFA referees, if a CONMEBOL team, no hope for a CONMEBOL official.
    Geiger (as you have also recalled) was the best example in the last times.
    Having already talked about OFC referees, I think that we should underline also some things about the african officials. No african referees in a FIFA final since 1998, when the Moroccan Said Belqola got the WC final.
    Maybe now for Gassama and Jedidi could be too early, but in the other tournaments before the World Cup, other african men could fight for a possible final. What do you think? Of course, my first thought is about Diatta, very experienced man.
    And still about this Olympic tournament, my wish is that FIFA will act wisely, making sensible appointments. For example, considering Irmatov without doubts as a talent, they shouldn't appoint him in many matches or mandatorily in important and crucial matches, because they have to test mostly other names, those names who are at their first WORLD CUP selection.
    One can't compare the aforementioned Irmatv with, for example, Jedidi. Jedidi has still to show everything. For this reason, I hope that aso FIFA has this idea in its mind. Appointments have to make sense, absolutely.
    Probably I have also other things to say, but in the next days, for now it's enough

    1. Right, African officials received no final for quite a long time, but one must ask why. Because the others became better or because the Africans became worse? Just taking the African refs in WC matches, in 2002, Ghandour etc still were quite successful, but in 2006 and 2010? Abd El Fatah's performance in JPN AUS was not enough for a FIFA match in general, Codjia was solid in three less important group stage matches. In 2010, no need to talk about Coulibaly and Maillet's appearances were only ok, not more, the same counts for Damon.
      I predict you that Gassama will be the first African official since 1998 who will have a final ;) Perhaps a too early prediction, but I could not hide it..

  5. Anonymous23/7/12 12:45

    Carlos Batres is chairman of Referees Committee for Olympic Games. Could mean there is chance for referees from other confederations than UEFA, Irmatov and Nishimura.

    1. Then Garcia's chances are high.

    2. And maybe we can already consider Water Lopez at the World Cup?
      Of course, I hope not. Batres role is very important! To work in the best way, he should forget where is he from ;)
      But, is this possible?
      Anyway, Busacca will have the last word, as always, I think.

    3. Busacca as head of Refereeing department will have the first and last word on the appointments and who stays and goes. Of course Batres will have an important role but Busacca is like Collina.

  6. And a final prediction for the female Olympics. If USA will not reach it, I would like to see Chenard.

  7. Hey author i couldnt divert at any point i appreciate your efforts to create an article.


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