Referees ● Jul 20, 2021
Taqi Aljaafari becomes Singapore’s first football referee to officiate at Olympics
SINGAPORE, 20 JULY 2021 – The year 2021 is turning out to be one to remember for Muhammad Taqi Aljaafari, and it is not because of COVID-19.
Having been accredited as the first Singaporean FIFA Video Match Official (VMO) earlier this year, Taqi will make history once again as the nation’s first ever football referee to officiate at an Olympic Games.
The 34-year-old has been appointed as a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, where he will be responsible for supporting referees in game-changing decisions by identifying specific instances such as clear and obvious errors or serious missed incidents on the field of play.
“I received news of my selection for the Tokyo Olympics when I was on assignment in Saudi Arabia for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League Group Stage matches in April this year,” Taqi told FAS.org.sg. “It came as a surprise as it has never crossed my mind that I will be involved in the upcoming Olympic Games.”
The Games, which is set to take place in Tokyo, Japan from 23 July to 8 August, will feature the VAR technology for the first time in the football events since it was officially approved for use by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in 2018.
Taqi added: “I feel honoured yet humbled by this appointment as this is a rare opportunity to participate in the Olympics as a Singapore football official. It is a testament of not just the hard work that I have put in but also the collective effort of those involved behind the scenes and my colleagues in FAS who have supported me. It also shows the world that a small nation like Singapore is capable of developing match officials to officiate at the highest level of the game.”
As part of a long-term strategic move to invest and develop referees further, the FAS employed Taqi as a full-time staff in the Referees’ Department in 2015 and has since closely monitored his progress. A FIFA international referee since 2012, he has officiated at various FIFA and AFC tournaments, such as 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in India and 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Poland, and the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
As a VAR, Taqi’s first experience was at the group stage matches of the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in South Korea – the first FIFA age-group event which used the VAR system – and he has since gone on to perform the role at other tournaments, including the 2020 AFC Champions League held in Qatar.
As Singapore’s only accredited VMO, his journey consisted of rigorous practical and simulator training sessions, theoretical classroom sessions and assessments in terms of his communication and VAR skills, knowledge of the VAR protocol, the number of training hours clocked, match performances and other criteria.
VMOs are required to be mentally focused throughout the entire duration of the match as they review and perform silent checks on all decisions made as well as communicate with the referee on the pitch at the same time, unlike the emphasis on physical fitness and conditioning for referees. Naturally, they are expected to be well-versed in their knowledge and understanding of the VAR system, protocol and principles as well.
— FAS (@FASingapore) July 20, 2021
With the ongoing pandemic and use of VAR technology, Taqi is prepared for a unique first officiating experience at the Olympics and is looking forward to working closely and learning from the experiences of top referees and VMOs from all over the world.
“This experience will definitely be different from past tournaments. Besides matches being played behind closed doors, the teams will also be competing at a new level as the VAR technology will be used in the Olympic Games for the first time in history,” he said.
“This appointment is one of the many small steps that I have taken in my refereeing journey thus far and I hope this will encourage me to reach more milestones in the future. I hope to also share my experience with the local fraternity and look forward to contributing to the implementation of VAR in Singapore in the years to come.”
FAS Head of Referees Nazeer Hussain commented: “We are extremely proud of Taqi’s appointment to 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.”
The FAS congratulates Taqi on his appointment and wishes him all the best at the Tokyo Olympics.