(Photo: © Eddie dos Passos/SHF)

Peter von Reth, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Umpire's Chairman saluted Singapore for its strong (umpire) development programme which has produced not one but four referees to officiate on the international circuit.

By Eddie dos Passos/SHF

The four - Mohammad Amin Aiderus, 28-years-old and Lim Hong Zhen, 22 along with Miskarmalia Bte Mohd Ariffin, 20 (all three umpired at the 2007 Singapore International Hockey Challenge, aka SIHC) and Lynn Norhana Bte Hassan, 24 (who officiated at the 6th Women's Asia Cup in Hong Kong) were invited to join the international ranks by the FIH, on the 23 rd October (two days after the SIHC).

That makes for five currently available international umpires Singapore can boast about under the age of 30, which includes Suketu C Khabaria, who is the secretary for the Umpire's Committee, who earned his international badge when he was upgraded from national to international in 2005.

The good news here, there are at least 40 (seven Grade 1s, eight Grand 2s, seven Grade 3s and 18 trainees) umpires waiting in the wings who are between the ages of 17 to 28 (of both genders) that can follow their illustrious compatriots up the ranks and that spells a positive outlook for the game itself, simply said, the better the officiating (be it domestic or international level), the smoother and more exciting the game.

According to von Reth, umpires selected for upgrading were based on their overall performances at both domestic and national level or in some instances, international tournaments at the recommendation of their respective national umpires committee on the individual concerned or by nominated officials who can help the cause.

“Umpires are upgraded after their performance at tournaments that they have been umpiring at, and are assessed by a Tournament Director and Umpire's Manager,” he said.

“Since all your umpires had the luck this year that Singapore was participating at tournaments, they had an opportunity to show their abilities,” he said.

Said von Reth, all the newly upgraded umpires named had been assessed during different times over the past two years at numerous international tournaments, and it was at the recommendation of the parties concerned that enabled them to earn their international badges because of their maturity and experience in controlling matches.

“At previous opportunities, the nominated ones at that time could not convince us that they were ready for the next step in their careers, this time they all did and that is fantastic,” he said.

“I saw in them, good and in some even excellent improvements and more mature umpiring skills than at earlier events. All were quite capable now to take the lead in their matches and show real good and convincing umpiring standards,” he said.

He was highly appreciative on the way umpires were developed in Singapore and felt that other Asian nations could learn a lesson from the Lion City's progress in continually producing younger, matured and experienced umpires for domestic and ultimately, international level.

“For Singapore it means a great success on their development of umpiring and a huge appreciation for the ones who worked with these young umpires from the start of their umpiring career, no one excluded!” said von Reth.

“It is fantastic the way the development of your umpires has been aligned with what I

like to see in the international umpiring world: a good mix at the beginning of their careers with experienced umpires at matches, progressing step by step and not enforcing fast track upgrading when umpires are not really prepared,” he said.

He lauded accolades on the proactive approach undertaken by the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF), Umpire's Section, where he felt the huge devotion in time and energy in producing umpires at what he considered was an astonishing rate with what he termed as ‘positive, spirited and with a committed' attitude.

“The SHF can and must be very, very proud of all involved in this development and especially in the individual umpires themselves. As I have been working with them at several occasions in Singapore I admire the positive attitude, even at boring seminar issues, the spirit among them and the great commitment for umpiring at all matches they were appointed to,” he said.

“I am proud to have been able to contribute just a tiny little bit to their abilities and certainly that three of them did achieve their well-deserved upgrade in a tournament where I acted as UM,” he said.

He reminded the newly promoted officials that this was just the first step into the international arena at the lowest level but because of their youth, that they could look forward to a long and distinguish career as an international umpire.

“It has never been like this before and that is an honor by itself. For Asia it means a new group of young and promising umpires that can be appointed to international events although we must be honest and let them realise that some will achieve more than others in the future,” he said.

“They are not there yet, there is lots of work in the future to be done, but I am convinced they can achieve more,” he said.

Von Reth was overwhelmed with the decision to upgrade the four and was elated that the women's pairing would be able to go far, however, with the large number of men umpiring at international level there would be fewer appointments for Lim and Amin.

“Personally, this is a fantastic result and it pleases me as Chairman of the UC very much to have good youngsters and (sorry for the guys) two young and very good umpires in Miskarmalia and Lynn,” he said.

“But also the boys are very welcome at international level, however, the numbers in that gender are much higher already at international level,” he said.

Von Reth was looking forward to the day when more Singapore umpires would be showcasing their abilities on the international circuit.

“Singapore has worked out a steady and very good umpiring development plan with good coaching, consistent plans and messages to umpires, good facilities and structure and that is all paying off now,” he said.

“It is a pleasure to see that it works and that young people are eager to umpire if the opportunities are given and facilities provided. This success story cannot be ignored by anyone as it is a success of the whole team working on umpiring in Singapore,” he said.

“Certainly other countries can learn, that by putting in place the efforts, some budget-money, spirit and positive support into umpires at a young age, it will give a boost to hockey in general,” he said.

He felt that the long term prospects for hockey were positive, not only in Asia but the rest of the world and all those involved in the game could take a page out of the recent promotions in Singapore to ensure the sport continues to attract both players and umpires to make it as popular as ever.

“I appreciate all that has been done in Singapore and only can hope that other countries will follow!! Don't know how to express the sincere congratulations to all that worked hard for this without forgetting people so I won't mention names,” he said.