PFF taps top refs for Smart Championships

CAGAYAN DE ORO – The Philippine Football Federation has tapped its best referees to officiate in the group eliminations of the  PFF-Smart Club Championships, including six who passed the rigorous week-long FIFA referees’ course held last May in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte.

Two of them are in the Group A competition being held here at the Don Mariano Pelaez Sports Complex here,  and they are referee Wilfredo Bermejo and assistant referee Roberto Hernandez, fresh from officiating in the Asean Football  Under-16 boys championship held in Vientiane, Laos last July 5-20.

In Iloilo where the Group B tournament is being held are referees Steve Suprecencia, Oliver Moreno and assistant referees Grant Rojas and Jeffrey Velez.

Together with Bermejo and Hernandez they were the eight among the 30 participants who survived and passed the course conducted by  AFC instructors  Mohamad Podzali of Malaysia and Azimi of Indonesia.

“The course was pretty tough because it included a high-intensity fitness test where we had to do 40-meter sprints  in six seconds and 12 rounds around the track oval,” said Hernandez in an interview Thursday. He finished  the exam second behind Bermejo, the oldest  participant at 41.

Another survivor of the course,  referee Jovanie Villagracia, is now in Macau after being hired by the Macau Football Association, Hernandez bared.

Both of them explained that the local referees and assistant referees who passed the course are now eligible to officiate in Asean, AFC and, hopefully, FIFA-sanctioned  competitions, including the World Cup, the sport’s biggest showcase.

“We are now included in the list submitted to the AFF to officiate in international tournaments,” Hernandez said. “Based on our performance, we can go up to AFC and FIFA-sanctioned events.” 

A recent agriculture graduate at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos, Hernandez, 28, had previous international stints in the 2007 Southeast Asian Games men’s football tournament in Thailand and the Agribank invitational tourney in Vietnam that same year.

Although a referee since 1998, Bermejo, who played as a midfielder-striker for multi-titled Air Force, has not seen international action yet.

He missed the opportunity to  officiate in the 2009 Singapore Asian Youth Games after the national youth team had to pull out from the meet because two players  were struck by bird flu.

“I was all set to go but our team withdrew ,” Bermejo, a Barotac Nuevo native, said.  “Pero, hopefully next time I will get my chance.”

Both Bermejo and Hernandez said that the lessons they learned from the FIFA referees’ course has helped them to be more quick, decisive and firm in making calls, and keep pace with the players on the pitch.

“In a high level competition  like the PFF-Smart Club Championships you need these qualities so that the matches will go smoothly,” Bermejo said. “And the crowd will appreciate the games more.” PFF Media Bureau


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