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ICF Referee Accreditation

In Jan 2002, Team NUS pooled our resources and popped by Hong Kong to participate in the inaugural Asian Canoe Polo Championships.

I received a call from SCF asking if I was interested to take part in the ICF Referee Accreditation Course. I said yes. Together with Cheng Lin Chuan, I joined about 10 other participants from Asia in this course.

The first 2 days of the course sailed past like a breeze. Theory lessons plus good lunches. We had fun.

The ordeal started on the third day. We had to referee games in the Asian championships while the ICF assessors sat by to grade us. It was terribly nerve-wrecking as these were actual games between countries. Plus, Cheng and I were the only two referee trainees who doubled as players. The pressure gushed at us like the waters of Niagara Falls.

When you're thrown into the deep end, you learn to swim doubly quick. I guess Cheng and I were 'fortunate' to undergo the Baptism of Fire during that course. We learnt a tremendous lot from that course. And for that, we have to thank the wonderful trainers from Europe and Australia.

I had the fortune of refereeing the final game between Japan and Taiwan. These were the top teams in Asia and the stakes were terribly high. It was my first taste of officiating a game at such high level with players of such calibre.

I Made A Mistake

The atmosphere at the final game was electrifying. Fans were raving and screaming at the top of their lungs. You will never know how crazy these people were unless you were there.

It was hard to concentrate on refereeing.

In the dying minutes of the game, I made a mistake. I awarded a free shot when it should clearly have been a GPS. The player missed the shot. That cost Japan a chance to tie the score and allowed Taiwan to celebrate their victory.

Up till that point, I have never felt so bad in my entire polo lifespan. I apologised to the Japanese coach and Kenta Hoya, the captain, for my incompetence. But they displayed their professionalism by acknowledging Taiwan's strength during the game and warmly shook my hand.

Out of the 10 or so participants of the ICF Referee Accreditation Course, only 4 of us got accredited. Cheng and I were two of the lucky ones. A participant from Hong Kong and another from Taiwan made up the rest of the quartet. We were one of the first Asians to receive ICF Referee Accreditation.

There was a post-competition dinner at Jumbo Restaurant. ICF referee certificates, licence cards and jerseys were awarded at the dinner. While the other 3 newly-accredited referees received their items from the VIP proudly, I couldn't do the same. Images of the blunder at the finals stuck in my mind like a shadow. I averted the eyes of the Japanese players best as I could.

Encouragement from the CP Community

After I went on stage to receive my accolade, I caught the glance of Kenta Hoya. He gave me an affirmative smile and nod. That was one of the best encouragements I could ever receive. For the first time that evening, I could truly smile.

I made up my mind to learn from that mistake. The only way I could make up to Team Japan was to make sure that I do not repeat the mistake. I could feel the impact a referee had on a game. And I told myself to work hard on refereeing so that I can give back to the community which has supported me so strongly.

Naturally the Taiwanese players thanked me profusely for the good game. In particular, the Taiwanese coach Mr Liu Te-Chih also gave me a few words of encouragement.

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