Singapore ref Taqi reaches another milestone with Olympic appointment
Local football match official is a video assistant referee at the Olympics
One of Singapore's top football referees, Taqi Aljaafari Jahari, has reached another milestone in his officiating career.
The 34-year-old is at the Tokyo Games as a video assistant referee (VAR), becoming the first football referee from the Republic to officiate at the Olympics.
In an e-mail interview, Taqi told The New Paper that it has been an exceptional and unique experience as it's his first time at the Olympics and the first time VAR technology is used in the tournament.
"The opportunity to work with top referees and VMOs (video match officials) from all over the world with vast experience has also been eye-opening," he added.
While the VAR system is making its debut at the Olympics after it was officially approved by the International Football Association Board in 2018, this is not Taqi's first assignment as a VAR.
He performed the same role at the 2017 Under-20 World Cup in South Korea, where the system was first used at a Fifa age-group tournament - and also at last year's AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Champions League in Qatar.
Taqi, a Fifa referee, has also been called up for various on-field assignments over the years.
These include the 2017 U-17 World Cup in India, 2019 U-20 World Cup in Poland, Asian Cup, AFC Champions League and regional World Cup qualifiers and friendlies.
With the Olympics under his belt, Taqi is hoping to raise the bar further for himself at competitions such as the World Cup, following in the footsteps of former Singapore referees Shamsul Maidin (2006) and George Suppiah (1974).
Said Taqi: "I would like to continue and challenge myself to be involved in top competitions like the Olympics, Asian Cup, World Cup, not only in the capacity as a VAR, but also in the capacity as a refereeing trio team from Singapore.
"I've experienced being part of a refereeing trio in the U-17 and U-20 World Cup, and I hope to be involved in other competitions as a trio with my fellow Singaporean referees."
At the 2019 U-20 World Cup, Taqi was part of a refereeing team alongside Singaporean assistant referees Ronnie Koh and Abdul Hannan.
They officiated two group matches, including Norway's 12-0 win over Honduras, in which Erling Haaland scored nine goals.
When asked about his chances of making his World Cup dream come true at Qatar 2022, Taqi noted that officials will be appointed based on consistent match performances.
He added: "It is every referee's dream to be involved in any capacity at the World Cup and to arrive there will be a bonus for me."
The Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) head of referees Nazeer Hussain told the association's website that they are extremely proud of Taqi's appointment at the Olympics "as it attests to the ability of our referees and our ongoing efforts in referee development".
"We hope that this appointment will inspire our existing and aspiring referees and encourage them to work towards bigger goals and dreams in their refereeing journeys," he said.
While he is racking up milestones in his refereeing career, Taqi, who works as an executive with the FAS' referees department, also hopes to be a mentor for young and aspiring match officials.
He said: "I sincerely hope to see more local younger referees being accredited as a Fifa match official, recognised at the international level and more referees being accredited as VMOs.
"Being a small nation, our reputation and history of being represented at key international football competitions are well recognised.
"The aspiring younger referees must have the belief that they are able to reach the top level of officiating in regional and international level as this has been proven by the current and previous generation of referees."
While refereeing can be demanding in terms of fitness, commitments and keeping oneself updated with the Laws of the Game, Taqi believes it is rewarding when one's efforts and performances are recognised.
He said: "I believe in the years to come, there will be even more opportunities and support available for those who wish to pursue refereeing as a career and would like to encourage young aspiring referees and passionate football fans to... challenge themselves to make decisions on the field of play."