Sports\Team China

Foreign umpires bring expertise to Games

By Ma Chi | | Updated: 2017-08-31 22:28

In an effort to make competitions fairer, as well as bringing in more high-level refereeing expertise, the country's 'mini-Olympics' has resorted to top-notch umpires from overseas.

Peris Nenad, a water polo umpire from Croatia, has been a referee for five World Championships and the Olympic Games. He has also been invited to referee at the Chinese National Games for the third time.

Peris said he believed foreign umpires have advantages over their local counterparts.

"As a foreigner, I don't know any body or team here and I carry no pressure," he said.

"In Europe, it is a common practice to invite foreign umpires to officiate important competitions. The introduction of foreign judges is also good for the development of water polo in China."

As the most important multi-sport event in China, the National Games has been plagued by scandals arising from controversial decisions and biased officiating in competitions.

Last week, the General Administration of Sport, the country's sport governing body, publicly criticized the authority of boxing after protests were filed by participating teams as a result of controversial decisions in the boxing competitions at the 13th National Games.

Similar protests also occurred at the last edition of the quadrennial event.

In one case, the Beijing rugby squad threw the match in the women's final in protest of officiating decisions they deemed unfair. In another case, Jiang Wenwen and Jiang Tingting, a world-champion duo in synchronized swimming, claimed a silver medal, losing to a duo from the host province, after disputable marking in the game.

Chen Xu, the deputy head of baseball organizing committee of the National Games, said tight competitions in high-profile events like the Games put a lot of pressure on domestic judges, and misunderstanding occurs once there is an error.

"International judges are more experienced and neutral," he said.

To make competitions fairer, the organizing committee of the 13th National Games, which is held in Tianjian, invited 58 foreign umpires in 11 sports, including water polo, handball and hockey. Their expertise has won applause.

Guo Shiyu, a Chinese baseball judge, spoke highly of his American counterpart from the Major League of Baseball, Buckminster Seth Alan.

"American baseball referees are world leading," he said.

"They are strict with details and are proficient in handling some small problems, such as tiny touches between hitters and catchers.

"They also help Chinese referees improve by bringing the latest rules and refereeing expertise from world's top baseball leagues."

Four neutral referees from MLB and Korean Baseball Organization were also invited to officiate baseball matches.

From the perspective of the foreign judges, they deem the experience of refereeing in China as a good chance for mutual learning.

Jakub Mejzlik, a hockey judge from Cezch, has officiated in competitions of many countries, including the Indian Hockey League.

"In refereeing in other countries, I can learn from local judges and share information with them. It is kind of a mutual learning," he said.

Jakub is a part-time referee who works as sports salesman off the pitch. He said he spent two to three months a year being referee at competitions at home and abroad.

"I enjoy my hobby, and the experience of being a referee allow me to make friends from different countries," Jakub said.

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