A Referee Heading to Russian World Cup
International football match official, Bamlak Tessema has been in charge of several continental and international matches. This year, he successfully officiated the U17 world cup matches in India. He was also in charge of the first leg of African Champion’s league final between Casablanca and Alhaly of Egypt. He is now one of the 6 African referees nominated to preside the World Cup in Russia.
Our reporter Teshome Fantahun sat with Bamlak and discussed various issues related to his professional career and family. Enjoy reading!.
ABN-You have so far officiated at CAN, the African Champions league final, several CAN qualifying matches, African Champions league and confederations cup matches. And recently you have become one of the six African Arbiters nominated to chair the world cup matches. What do you aspire in your professions?
Bamlak-It was a miracle. I thank the Almighty and His Mother St. Mary for everything that happens in my life. It was a will of God. I have never imagined this would happen this soon. It was all a surprise. So far, I have not known what my roles in the world cup would be. I am going to have another training 10 days before the world cup and the outcome of the training will decide my roles in the world cup. I can’t say anything before the result.
ABN-What else would you want to accomplish?
Bamlak-There were Ethiopian arbiters who officiated in CAN two.. three times. I would be happy to share such histories. As I told you, I don’t know my roles in the coming World Cup. All I want now is to see officiating a match in the world cup, which ever match it would be I want to be in the field.
ABN-Do you have any team or player you want to see playing in a match you head, (maybe)?
Bamlak-Frankly speaking, I don’t support any team, in Ethiopia or outside. I once presided the CAN qualifying match between Egypt and Tanzania. I handled a match in Mo Salah’s presence when he was in Roma. Now, I would love to officiate a match in which Messi is playing.
ABN-What do you feel about a video assisted referee (VAR)?
Bamlak- After a series of trainings on VAR, now I say welcome. I have learnt VAR really helps referees. I was presented a study conducted by a University in Belgium whose result showed a referee assisted by a video is 99% accurate. Of course, VAR affects players and supporters emotions. It drags matches. However, VAR doesn’t stop every incident in a match. It is involved only in major events, only clear and obvious mistakes.
ABN-How did you first hear the news and what did you feel?
Bamlak-I hardly believed it. I was one of the ten candidates. However, I was not sure that I would be the one. I was on the reserve list. Of course, I officiated important matches this year. I led the U17 world cup and the African Champion’s league final. I had hopes.
I heard from the media while I was in Jimma leading the match between Jimma and Dire Dawa football teams. I couldn’t check by myself due to network interruption. I called my wife and she confirmed it is true..
ABN-What do you do to help your fellow referees, especially the ones who want to follow your footsteps?
Bamlak-We should always thank our predecessors. Haile followed the footsteps of Abebe Bikila. I always remember Seyoum Tarekegn, the Ethiopian referee who officiated in Mexico world cup. There were officials who presided in CAN and the world cup. Thanks to them, we are many today. We have feminine officials officiating in the World cup. I learnt several things from them. Likewise, I always share my experiences to my fellow officials. I also share them equipments. I never used head phone before I had the international badge. Now, we try equipments together. I bring equipments I use in international matches and share my friends. We discuss rules and laws of the game.
ABN-Any plan in the future, may be writing books, teaching etc?
Bamlak-I wish I could. I am so lucky that I was trained by renowned referees. I had the chance to get the experiences of many reputable officials. I have learnt that modern football demands modern trainings. I would wish if I could be a teacher. I would rather teach.
ABN-What is your pastime?
Bamlak-Do I have? Football… I officiate matches then I watch movies. I watch football matches. And, I read too.
ABN-Tell me a little bit about your family.
Bamlak-I am married and a father of two sons. I got married and I got my international badge the same day in 2009. My friends were receiving international badges at the Addis Ababa Stadium while I was getting married. My wife is Dr. Fikirte Wolde. She is a physician. She really helps me. I have to acknowledge her support for all my successes.
ABN-Does she like football?
No! She doesn’t.
ABN– Who is the best match official for you?
Bamlak-Mark Clatenburg. For me, he has all what it takes to be an official. He is different.
ABN-You are always fit and have an amazing physique, what is the secret?
Bamlak-Training,… diet! I never interrupt trainings. I do my trainings every day. I was not this fit when I first joined the African talent referees. Many African officials were much better than me. In addition, I didn’t know what agility, flexibility or endurance mean. Through experience, I have learnt and improved. The secret is I love the job and I do my trainings.
ABN-What do you want to see in Ethiopia in your profession?
Bamlak-When I first joined the African talent referee, the then officer of referees asked me what had happened to us, Ethiopians. He said he hadn’t seen Ethiopian names in the African referees list. We, Ethiopians, were leaders in many sectors; sport administration, marketing, arbitrage etc. We really need professionalism; we need to be professionals. I want to see more professionalism in football. We all need to do what we can and what we are good at. I love officiating matches and am good at it. Therefore, I better be an arbiter. Everyone should do what s/he is able to… I really wish to see more professionalism in Ethiopia.