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Argentina-Greece World Cup match to be called by Central Asian referees
Irmatov will be refereeing his 3rd World Cup match
By Shakar Saadi
PRETORIA, South Africa -- FIFA surprised some by choosing Ravshan Irmatov, a little-known referee and one of the youngest at the tournament, for one of the World Cup's most prestigious assignments: the opening game between South Africa and Mexico.
Now, he’s already preparing for his third match as a World Cup referee.
Irmatov and his team — Rafael Ilyasov (also of Uzbekistan) and Bokhodyr Kochkorov (Kyrgyzstan) — followed up the opening game by working the English-Algerian showdown. Now, they will officiate a Group B clash between Argentina and Greece June 22.
“It's just another match to me”, Irmatov said at a press conference.
Argentines journalists asked what Irmatov thought of being on the field with some of the world’s best players, including Lionel Messi.
“When I referee a match, I don't know who the best player in the world is,” he said. “For me all football players are equal; all teams are identical. The game has rules that I must follow; nothing about Argentina and Greece matters”.
Central Asia Online asked Irmatov what it was like to officiate the Cup’s first match.
“The main thing was I tried to forget it was the opening match,” he said. “For me it was more important to concentrate on my own actions. Only in this case will the judging be successful”.
He said it was important for the three officials to work together.
“It would have been very difficult for me to achieve this level without” Ilyasov and Kochkorov, he said. “That's why I'm obligated to share my success with them”.
Irmatov’s father, also a referee, taught him to strive for perfection.
“My father always finds fault in my refereering. He constantly points out to me that in some episode I was wrong”, Irmatov said. “I try to explain to him that we can't always take a position where we can clearly see everything that happened. On TV, everything is easier to see and from different angles, too”.
Irmatov said that when he referees in Central Asia, he tries to watch matches of teams he is going to officiate so he will know what might require special attention. At the World Cup, a technical observation team has recordings of all the games for officials to watch.
The pace of the World Cup is challenging. June 22’s match will be the third in ten days. Tournament referees have special instructors for physical training and postgame recovery.
“So today, the third day after the English-Algerian match, I feel completely restored. I'm ready for the Argentine-Greek match”, he said June 21.
Some referees have already been relegated to assistant referee status after making bad calls in the World Cup. Irmatov said he has no idea what will happen after the third match.
“The judging committee will make that decision” about who will officiate in the final, he said. “But I will do everything to be in the final. Just as every soldier dreams of becoming a general, every judge dreams of working the world championship final”.