Uzbekistan's referee Ravshan Irmatov will be making his third appearance in the FIFA World Cup.
In an exclusive interview, Irmatov shares with the-AFC.com his dream - to see an Asian referee appointed to the final of the World Cup.
Who is Ravshan Irmatov?
Widely regarded as one of the best match officials in world refereeing, Irmatov is a five-time AFC Referee of the Year (2014, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008) and has won the Uzbekistan Referee of the Year 10 times in a row from 2006 to 2015.
In 2017, Irmatov took charge of the AFC Champions League final for the fifth time in his illustrious career after the 2015, 2013, 2011 and 2007 finals. Other notable highlights include his appointments at the 2017 and 2008 FIFA Club World Cups, the 2015 and 2011 editions of the AFC Asian Cup, and the 2012 Olympic Games Football Tournament.
Has he officiated at the FIFA World Cup before?
At the age of 32, Irmatov was the youngest referee at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, a moment the Uzbek regards as one of the main highlights of his career. Proving his mettle amongst the world’s best in his maiden tournament, Irmatov tied the all-time record for most games refereed during a single World Cup with five games.
Four years later in Brazil 2014, he become the first referee to officiate in nine World Cup matches, beating the previous record of eight set by Joël Quiniou of France, Benito Archundia of Mexico and Uruguay's Jorge Larrionda.
What does he have to say about his appointment?
Records and historic achievements have grown synonymous with Irmatov, and it is no surprise the Uzbek shares his desire to reach a summit never before scaled by an Asian referee – to blow the final whistle at the FIFA World Cup.
“Asian refereeing has achieved so much over years, all thanks to the AFC’s efforts in referee development. We have good teaching materials, the best instructors, seminars, preparatory courses, workshops. The sole focus is to improve our performances on the field of play.
“But we have a dream and we have not reached the finish line. My aim is to achieve this dream to finally see the day a referee from Asia is appointed to the final of the World Cup.”
What are his aspirations for the future?
“When I was a young referee I did not just watch the matches during the FIFA World Cup, I was playing close attention to the performance of the referees.“
“I learned so many valuable lessons from the World Cup referees. Today, as a World Cup referee, we know that they (younger referees) are watching us closely and looking to us as role models. It is very important for me to lead by example for our aspiring referees in the Continent.”