Subkhiddin Mohd Salleh (picture) wants to provide the perfect tribute to his late “brother” and mentor, Nazri Abdullah, by becoming the first Malaysian to referee in the FIFA World Cup.
Former AFC Director of Referees Nazri, who passed away in February last year, was an inspirational figure for all Malaysian referees, including Subkhiddin, who is a candidate for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
This is the last chance for Subkkiddin because, at 43, he is only two years away from enforced retirement for international referees.
“This is my last and only chance to officiate in the highest level. I want to go desperately,” said Subkhiddin, a teacher at the Vocational High School in Nibong Tebal, Penang.
Two Malaysians have officiated in the World Cup before, the late Halim Abdul Hamid in France 98 and Mat Lazim Awang Hamat in Korea/Japan 2002, both as assistant referees.
Subkhiddin was a candidate to officiate at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany but failed to clear the final hurdle. Other Asian referees vying for the South Africa finals are Matthew Breeze, from Australia, Saudi Khalil Al Ghamdi, Yuichi Nishimura, of Japan and Uzbekistan’s Ravshan Irmatov.
A place in the FIFA World Cup would also help Subkhiddin fulfil the wish of Nazri, who convinced him to take up refereeing in 1994.
“He will always live in my heart and soul, and is like never away from me,” Subkhiddin told the-afc.com.
“I can’t help but always remember him, before, during and after the match for everything he has taught me and the guidance he has given, whether it is about movement on field or decision-making in a pressure-cooker situation.
“He is an inspiration to all of the referees in Asia. He has such a strong character and charisma. I became a referee because of him and I don’t want to disappoint him.
“I am not who I am without him.”
Subkhiddin was among the 38 referees who took part in the just-completed AFC Elite Referees Course, Batch 1.