The people behind the whistle

Not only the teams, players and coaches in Gothia Cup travel from afar – the referees do as well. Meet John, Saleh and Sabarudin from Singapore.

It’s another day of the tournament week for John Ho See Zhiang, Md Saleh Sulaiman and Sabarudin Ismail at Gamlestadsvallen. They are here, just as the players, to participate in Gothia Cup – but as referees.

It’s their first time in Gothenburg, but they have prior experience from another Gothia Cup tournament.

”Gothia Cup is well known, it’s the biggest world youth soccer tournament. We have been referees for two years in Gothia Cup China, where we heard about the Swedish tournament,” says John.

“Very good experience”

In total, they officiate around three matches a day, and enjoy it as much as the players.

”It’s interesting to see the Swedish organisation. We’re happy to come here, and we enjoy officiating the games. It’s a very good experience,” says John, with the others agreeing.

Their ambition in the tournament is to be invited back again to Sweden, and to get a better classification next time, says Saleh, who works as a full time referee back in Singapore.

One of the biggest challenges in officiating in another part of the world is the culture and the differences in refereeing.

”For example, the way we whistle is different in Asia. If we see a foul that would give a yellow card, we whistle three times very fast. Here, you only whistle once, but strong and firm. In Asia that would only mean a very mild foul,” says Saleh.


Picture left to right: Md Saleh Sulaiman, Jacky Wong, Tristley Bassue, Sabarudin Ismail, Liu Fusheng and John Ho See Zhiang.

Celebrate the Game

As referees, they particulary appreciate Gothia Cup’s message to Celebrate the Game, which reminds players that it’s only a game and that the referees are human.

”It’s great that every field has this reminder,” says Sabarudin, before John chimes in:

”It gives us respect, and it has an effect on everyone. The culture is different here, the players don’t harass or question the referee. I think it’s a thing that the coaches have learned them – if the coach behaves, the players will follow.”

And even though all of them have years of experience behind them, the tournament is still a good place to pick up even more.

”We know all the rules, but we are still learning new things. We have to adapt. Every game is different, and every game is important,” says Saleh.

This post is also available in: svSvenska

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