For the past five years Subkhidin Haji Mohd Salleh has been among the top three referees in Asia. And, now the 43 year old from Penang, is on the verge of becoming the first ever Malaysian to referee at the World Cup finals.
Subkhidin, has been included in the 38 main referees who are now undergoing the final stages of trainings and briefings as part of their preparations to officiate at the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.
The final list of about 28 referees is expected to be announced early next year. Based on his performances, Subkhidin has an excellent opportunity to create football history for Malaysia.
The International Football Federation (FIFA) have shortlisted top referees from each continent into groups of three and in three different categories - main referees, assistant referees and standbys. In Subkhidin group are two assistant referees - one each from Thailand and China - and a standby referee from Singapore.
In the 2006 World Cup, Subkhidin was also in the running and reached the last 42 but failed in the last round.This would also be the last chance for Subkhidin to achieve this feat, because the cut-off age for referees at international level is 45.
Previously, two Malaysian referees made it into the final list but as Assistant Referees. They were Halim Abd Hamid (1998) and Md Lazim Mohd (2002) .
At the last World Cup in Germany, Allahyarham Nazri Abdullah was on duty as one of the Referees Instructors while the other Malaysian representative was Windsor John Paul, the General Coordinator who was in-charge of the important matches, including the finals.
We wish Subkhidin all the best.
Meanwhile, Asia's big three - Japan, South Korea and Australia became the first teams to advance to the 2010
finals. Japan beat Uzbekistan 1-0 in Group One and were the first team through for the cond time in a row, having also set the pace for the 2006 finals in Germany.
South Korea outclassed UAE 2-0 in Group Two and reached the tournament for the seventh successive time. Australia too advances, via the Asian route for the first time, after a goalless draw with Qatar in Doha.