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aACAyGive our referees a chance to improve'.

Abu Dhabi: A spate of refereeing mistakes in the local competitions this season have forced the officials of a number of clubs calling for foreign referees to officiate in the key matches here.

Former UAE and Fifa referee Farid Ali, the refereeing expert with the Abu Dhabi Sports Channel, agreed that serious mistakes were often being committed by the local referees but stood firmly against importing foreign referees in the local competitions. Ali believes that there is still a space for reform and that the local referees are capable of improving their standards to regain the good reputation, which the UAE referees enjoyed in Asian and world stage some years ago.

Ali was a Fifa referee from 1994 to 2011, officiating in more than 150 international matches and can boast of more than 700 matches in the local competitions. He was also selected the UAE's Best Referee many times before retiring three years ago. Following are the excerpts of an exclusive interview with Gulf News:

GULF NEWS: What do you think about the standard of refereeing this season?

FARID ALI: In the last three seasons, almost nobody, including members of the UAE Football Association (UAE FA), are happy with the decline in the refereeing standards. I believe that the decline started when Salem Saeed, the former UAE Fifa referee and the former secretary of the Referees Committee, left his post. Saeed worked hard to follow up the work of the referees and used to hold weekly meeting with them to do a post mortem of their performances and iron their flaws.

After Saeed, the UAE FA brought in foreign experts like Jamal Al Ghondoor from Egypt and Omar Beshtawi from Tunisia and now Shamsul from Malaysia but they were not given enough time to work to improve the refereeing. This created a state of carelessness between the referees, especially the Fifa group who began to miss the training sessions.

Mistakes are part of the game. Can you point out any which affected the results of the matches this season?

Unfortunately, there are. I will only mention some of them which were very blatant and affected the outcome of the matches. First, there was the penalty awarded to Al Ahli against Ajman in the 96th minute of the match, which resulted in a goal and denied Ajman a deserved point. Second one was the goal, which Al Ain scored in the last minute against Al Dhafra and was not allowed, although it was a correct goal and deprived Al Ain of victory. There was also the incident of the sending off of Mohsin Al Hashimi, the custodian of Bani Yas for handling the ball outside his box while he did not touch the ball with his hands.

With all these mistakes, do you support the call for foreign referees?

No. There is a big possibility that the foreign referees will also commit mistakes. We can improve the standards of our referees by using the local experts we have in Salem Saeed Ahmad Yagoob and Ali Bu Jsaim, who are both widely recognised in Asia. The local referees should work to improve themselves and they should know that working hard in training and in meetings will help them to improve and thus commit fewer mistakes.

The Chairman and members of the Referees' Committe should also follow up the work of the referees and be strict about discipline in the work of the RC in order to improve the standards. We have some young new referees who showed great potential to become good referees in the near future like Yagoob Al Hammadi, Sultan Al Marzoogi, Mohammad Ali Yousuf and Ahmad Salem.

The RC should also review the list of Fifa referees at the start of every season and monitor those who are not showing good standards to be omitted from the international list to make room for new referees. The UAE FA and the top officials of the local clubs have always supported the local referees and it is time for the referees themselves to work hard and improve their standards. I am not happy with the mistakes committed in this season but I have confidence that our referees will improve by hard work.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Feb 23, 2014
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