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African ref for World Cup final?

It’s the pinnacle of any referee’s career to officiate at the “greatest show on earth”.

It’s even more prestigious to be in the middle with the whistle on the final day. It only comes around once every four years. Some have been to two or more World Cup tournaments. Others haven’t been that fortunate.

Djamel Haimoudi from Algeria has been performing excellently in Rio and has been holding his own with the “heavyweights” of world refereeing.

Djamel took charge of the game between USA and Belgium and performed very well. He was always in control and the level of professionalism and composure displayed by him on the day gained him many admirers on the field and within the corridors of power at Fifa.

He’s already had two other games under his belt in Rio, including Netherlands v Australia and Costa Rica v England. When you compare that to the referee of the 2010 final, referee Howard Webb, who, to date, has only gotten two games, it surely speaks volumes of the man and his standing within the Fifa refereeing hierarchy.

Never a man to step back from taking decisions that need to be taken, he cautioned England’s Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana and Costa Rica’s Giancarlo Gonzalez and made it clear that he would not tolerate any nonsense.

Mr Haimoudi is no stranger to the international stage. Prior to this World Cup he officiated in three editions of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2008, 2012, and 2013.

In 2013 he was assigned to two matches at the Fifa Confederations Cup, also in Brazil, and was appointed to officiate at the third-place playoff in the Confederations Cup in Brazil last year between Uruguay and Italy.

Born on December 10, 1970, in Oran Algeria, he has been a Fifa-listed referee since 2004.

He speaks three languages - Arabic, French and English - which surely equips him for what might be his most important game.

He also won the AFC referee of the year in 2012. He lists his hobbies as sport and sightseeing.

If Mr Haimoudi does get the final nod, he will be following in the footsteps of another great African referee, Said Belqola from Morocco, who was the first African referee to grace the stage on the final day.

On that day Mr Belqola had Achmet Salie from South Africa on one line and Mark Warren from England on the other line. The fourth official was Rahman Al Zaid from

Saudi Arabia.

Sadly, Mr Belqola died in 2002 after a long battle with cancer. He was just 45 years old.

In an area of sport that is more akin to criticism than compliments, Mr Haimoudi carries the “weight” of the African continent on his shoulders.

Many are waiting with bated breath for when the match officials for the “big day” will be announced later this week.

If he is lucky enough to get the appointment, it will be a great day for him, his family and his country. It will also put African referees on centre stage as far as world refereeing is concerned and will act as a springboard for other aspiring match officials to work harder to achieve the ultimate “goal” in refereeing.

We wish you luck Mr Haimoudi and we are all rooting for you.

Happy Whistling
Dr. Errol Sweeney
Twitter: @dr_errol

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