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Match Officials fly flag in Mexico

An Oceania match official trio is also taking part in the prestigious event and has controlled two matches in the group stages thus far.

The trio is led by Tahiti referee Norbert Hauata and also features assistant referees Mark Rule (New Zealand) and David Charles (Papua New Guinea).

Hauata and his assistants took charge of England’s 2-0 Group C win over Rwanda in Pachuca on June 19 and were in action again a week later as Germany defeated Panama in Group E by the same scoreline in Queretaro.

Hauata was also the fourth official for the Korea DPR-Netherlands and Mexico-Congo Group A matches.

The OFC trio did not take long to catch the eye after arriving in Mexico, performing remarkably well in the pre-tournament FIFA fitness tests to pass as one of the top groups – an impressive feat given that they had stepped off the plane just hours earlier and had to contend with the high altitude and scorching sun of Mexico City.

The England-Rwanda clash was a special moment for each member of the trio as it marked the first time they had officiated in a FIFA World Cup match.

Whilst he had to wait until this month to make his World Cup bow, Hauata has been the man in the middle for several other high profile games in recent months.

The father-of-three refereed the second leg of the 2011 O-League final between Auckland City and Amicale in New Zealand in April and also took part in last year’s Youth Pacific Games in Singapore, as did Rule as one of Hauata’s assistants.

Rule was also one of countryman Mike Hester’s assistant referees at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa and has been involved with numerous O-League matches.

He was on standby for the FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 as the reserve assistant refereee for Hester’s OFC trio, which officiated in the Group B meeting between Korea Republic and Greece.

While Rule follows in the footsteps of a string of New Zealanders who have officiated at FIFA events, the path taken by fellow assistant Charles is not such a well-trodden one.

The Papua New Guinean is the first match official from his country to be involved in such a tournament since Hillary Ani travelled to Trinidad and Tobago for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2001.

The OFC trio currently in Mexico are not the only Oceania officials to be playing a role in FIFA World Cups over the coming weeks.

Fijian referee Finau Vulivuli and assistants Jacqui Stephenson (New Zealand) and Lata Tuifutuna (Tonga) have headed to Germany to take part in the FIFA Women’s World Cup and Vulivuli has already been called into action.

The Savusavu-based schoolteacher, who also featured in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago last year, acted as fourth official for the Group D match between Norway and Equatorial Guinea on June 29 in Augsburg, a clash won 1-0 by Norway.

Completing OFC’s recent run of World Cup appointments will be New Zealand referee Peter O’Leary and assistants Jackson Namo (Solomon Islands) and Ravinesh Kumar (Fiji), who have been selected for the FIFA U-20 World Cup taking place in Colombia from June 18 to July 10.

The involvement of the three OFC trios in the FIFA events is the latest positive result of the Refereeing Assistance Programme (RAP).

OFC places great importance on developing world-class referees and this has been strongly supported by FIFA through its funding of the programme.

Under the supervision of referee development officer Massimo Raveino, referee instructor Neil Poloso and fitness trainer Kader Touati, the programme is helping to create a more organised, professional approach to refereeing in the Pacific.

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