Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Men in the middle

Referee Sukhbir Singh shows red in the SAFF final
There will be five AFC Elite referees for the upcoming AFC President's Cup Group B stage matches in Phnom Penh which begin on Saturday. They come from across the Asean region and represent Japan and Singapore, Malaysia and the Middle East countries of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Perhaps the best known of the five is Sukhbir Singh, a twenty-eight year old from Singapore that took charge of the SAFF final last year between India and Afghanistan that made headlines for all the wrong reasons. The game was evenly poised until a controversial penalty award to India saw the Afghan keeper push the referee earning a red card. India went onto score four goals in the last 25 minutes to win. Another from the Elite listing, those identified as the pick of the referees in the Asean region, is Khamis Mohammed Al-Marri, 27 and a regular in the Qatari Stars League in his home country. He was one of 10 AFC Project Future referees chosen to be on the FIFA referee list in 2011. Twenty-eight year old Ngor Amir Mohamed Noor was in the middle for the Malaysia versus Liverpool exhibition match last year and also officiated in the SAFF championships last season. The oldest of the five referees is Japan's Iida Jumpei at 31, whilst the youngest is 26 year old Fahad Al Mirdasi from Saudi Arabia, who normally officiates in the Zain Saudi Professional League. Let's all hope for a drama-free Group stage, where we hardly notice the match officials at all. That would be a nice surprise. The match commissioners, who effectively control match-days are from China and Chinese Taipei.

Without the support of the following sponsors, it would've been a tough ask for Phnom Penh Crown to foot the bill for this week's AFC President's Cup games. The AFC provide the host club/Federation with a tidy sum of money but it doesn't cover all the costs in staging the competition proper. At the Olympic Stadium for the five matches being played there, sponsors Canon and Smart will have their own booths with special offers for the football fans. Also providing much-needed sponsorship are 855Crown Hotel & Resort, Askap Gold Investment Company, Diamond Hotel (who will host the Crown squad), Golddragon gold dealership, That Hay Telecoms as well as Mega, Cambodia's latest ISP. Football followers at the Olympic Stadium will be entertained by hip-hop dancers during breaks in play, whilst a lucky draw will be made on the final day of competition.

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