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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Better refs make better play

Better refs make better play

Appointed referee instructor Tetsu Karakida of Japan is attempting to boost standards for referees in Cambodia who have been subject to stinging criticism

SINCE the June 3 suspension of assistant referee Yem Manoura for his error of judgement that cost Phnom Penh Crown a victory against Khemara Keila, many officials have been cautious in their decision making.

Spark FC manager Dara Vann complained bitterly about the level of the officiating as he watched his team fall 0-2 to Build Bright United Sunday. "The big problem is referee because he listened to Naga players," he said. "I don't know why he listened like that. You can see for yourself, very bad referee."

Bottom-placed Phouchung

Neak coach Solomon Dema-gudu, whose side celebrated a remarkable 2-2 draw against league leaders Preah Khan Reach Sunday, also faulted some of the referees' decisions. "The level of officiating is not encouraging, especially for teams with young players," he stated. "The officials seem to give the bigger teams more protection than desired, and this is discouraging for the younger players who now go into games believing that they will lose because of the referees' poor decisions.

"If the referees can stay neutral, I am sure there will be lots of upsets as the lower teams have talented young players who can spring surprises. These young players are the future of Cambodian football, so they need to be encouraged," Demagudu opined.

Emmanuel Okoduwa, an AFC licensed referee, coach of the International School for Phnom Penh team and coach/referee for the Phnom Penh Soccer League (a youth academy that runs a soccer training programme every weekend at Northbridge International School), has identified many flaws in decision making of CPL referees.

"The level of officiating in the CPL is quite poor, and this has affected the standard of the game," Okoduwa retorted Saturday, after seeing the referee wave play on when a National Defence Ministry player was brought down in the eighteen yard box. "I have been following the league for some time now and have observed lots of schoolboy errors made by the officials which need to be corrected for the game to improve," he stated, adding that players need good officiating to help them raise their game.

Photo by: NICK SELLS
Emmanuel Okoduwa attends the CPL games Saturday at Olympic Stadium.

Photo by: NICK SELLS
Referee instructor Tetsu Karakida (left) watches the CPL games from the stands Saturday.

Okoduwa, who was a professional footballer in Nigeria, Belgium, Holland and Singapore before retiring due to a nagging injury, also felt that referees are not being helped by wrong calls from their assistants, the linesmen, whose main responsibilities include signaling for offsides.

"The referees should be educated on the laws of the game. The rules are changing, and they [the officials] need to be updated," Okoduwa said.

Tetsu Karakida is a Japan Football Association (JFA) Class 1 referee instructor who has been seconded to the Cambodian Football Federation under the JFA's Development Assistance Programme of Asia. He is responsible for selecting referees and monitoring their activities on the field.

Although he agreed with Okoduwa's comments, Tetsu Karakida noted a "tremendous" improvement in the level of officiating over the last few months.

"Some of the referees are young and inexperienced, so you cannot expect them to come out clean all the time," he said. "They gain experience by officiating, and this is what we try to do by giving the younger referees games [to officiate] from time to time."

The Japanese official revealed that Cambodian referees Chhun Toy and Bun Tuy Bunhouern have been sent to referee instruction courses in Japan and the Philippines in the past few months, and that Doung Socheat, Cambodia's most experienced referee, with a FIFA Assistant Referee qualification, is being tutored to become a qualified centre referee. The 38-year-old Doung Socheat has officiated over a quarter of the CPL games played so far this season, with young referees, Koung Ly, Hun Samnang, and To Rythya also featuring prominantly.

Tetsu Karakida also frowned on the indiscipline of some players, citing intimidation tactics to force referees into making wrong decisions, and called on referees to be more assertive in their decision making, especially in punishing dissent with yellow and red cards. "The referee is powerful, and can use his power by issuing the cards," he declared. "But I've discovered that most Cambodian referees tend to be lenient in dealing with offending players, which is not very good."

Tetsu also bemoaned the poor movement of officials, saying "most of the referees in the league are slow to react".

With the abundance of foreign talent on show each week, perhaps its time for the FFC to seek the assistance of foreign referees to handle some local matches to help local referees develop quickly.

All photo by Nick Sells (



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