Kenyan referees, led by Gilbert Cheruiyot, undergo FIFA fitness assessment training after a four-year hiatus, aiming for international recognition.
Football Kenya Federation (FKF) has resumed fitness assessments and training sessions in Eldoret, with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of elite referees.
This initiative comes after a lengthy four-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Kenya's suspension by FIFA.
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The five-day event, held at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium, kicked off yesterday with the participation of 32 referees, including the esteemed Gilbert Cheruiyot and Mary Njoroge.
Cheruiyot and Njoroge, both recognized as elite referees, have left a remarkable imprint on the field and continue to inspire their peers.
"Kenyan referees are among the best in Africa. As a referee, you have no option but to train hard and work on your body weight," emphasized Gilbert Cheruiyot, highlighting the dedication required to excel in their demanding profession. He added, "The journey of refereeing isn't easy. You have to maintain discipline."
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Mary Njoroge, who officiated as an assistant referee at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia, shared her invaluable experience, stating her aspiration to be part of the next women's World Cup.
"I advise referees to work hard. There is no shortcut. It is just working," Njoroge asserted, emphasizing the importance of dedication and effort.
FIFA Referees Technical Instructor Carlos Henriques is overseeing the training, ensuring that the referees meet the stringent requirements for FIFA certification.
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On the first day of the training, Henriques was yet to identify world-class referees, emphasizing the rigor of the criteria, which include fitness, knowledge of the game, and the precise interpretation and application of the laws of the game on the field.
"We are going to try to boost Kenyan refereeing. We are sorry that no one from FIFA has been here (in Kenya) for the last four years," remarked Henriques, expressing the commitment to enhance the quality of Kenyan referees.
FKF Referees Committee Chairman Antony Makau expressed optimism about the group of referees undergoing training in Eldoret, asserting their potential for FIFA certification.
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He acknowledged the challenges faced during the FIFA suspension but highlighted the remarkable achievement of having Kenyan referees officiate in AFCON.
Makau emphasized the importance of the training in Eldoret, stating that it aims to prepare Kenyan referees for future FIFA appointments, ensuring they meet the necessary requirements.
"Our aim is to see as many Kenyan referees as possible rising to the FIFA-accredited level," he stated, underlining the federation's commitment to developing top-class referees.
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Sylvester Kirwa, FKF Referees Manager, highlighted that medical examinations of the referees would be an integral part of the training.
“By Friday, the referees will have upped their game in terms of rules. The training is happening at high altitude and we have to up our game,” he said.
He emphasized that the refereeing standards are continuously improving through the FKF leagues and revealed that a number of young referees in their early 20s are being groomed for the future, further enhancing the potential of Kenyan officiating.