Johannesburg - Fresh from being appointed to officiate at this year’s Soccer World Cup in Russia, referee Zakhele Siwela travels to Italy next week for another FIFA workshop.
Last month, the 36-year-old assistant referee attended a workshop in Dubai, where he made the list of 63 assistants who will attend the soccer spectacle.
Siwela says the workshop in Italy is a continuation of the one in Dubai, and he and his colleagues will be taken through the stringent requirements of the World Cup.
Although excited about making the list, Siwela says he is not getting ahead of himself. He knows the expectations that come with the event, but believes he will be able to put the country on the world map.
Siwela, Zambia’s Janny Sikazwe and Angola’s Jerson dos Santos will be making their senior World Cup debut, and he says this will put more pressure on them.
“We will probably be the youngest team and all eyes will be on us. But this is a motivation on its own. We cannot falter and we have to grab this opportunity,” he says.
Siwela believes he will be able to officiate at two more World Cups, so he wants to learn as much as he can during this one.
“This is a foundation for me because, if I do well, I know my chances of attending future World Cups will increase. The ball is in my hands, and I don’t want to disappoint the country and those who have put their faith in me.”
Siwela says he is nervous, but also excited.
“The World Cup psyches you up by itself because you know you are there with the best of the best, and you don’t need more motivation to go all out.”
An achievement for him would be officiating at least three games.
He is the fourth South African assistant referee to officiate in the World Cup after Ari Soldatos and Achmat Salie in France in 1998, and Enock Molefe at home in 2010.
He says he wants to emulate those who came before him and hoist the South African flag high. But, for now, he has a job to do in the Absa Premiership, although he wants to limit the number of matches he officiates at.
“As much as this is crunch time in the league, with almost every game as important as the next, I will ask not to be overloaded with matches. There is a specific programme that FIFA has drawn-up for us, which involves keeping fit, and getting therapies and massages. They want us to be as fresh as possible before the first game kicks off.”
He says he does not want the call-up to be a curse, but rather a motivation.
“Sometimes you may think you have arrived and end up failing tests, losing focus and making unnecessary mistakes. But I won’t let that happen.”