ISLAMABAD  -  Three Pakistani referees left for Jakarta on late Sunday to officiate in the Asian Games squash events as International Technical Officials (ITO) appointed by Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

Pakistan’s experienced referees Asif Khan, Sajjad Khan and Munawar Zaman, son of former world squash champion Qamar Zaman, were selected by the OCA for the said event. Talking to The Nation prior to their departure, they said: “We are eager to officiate the Asian Games squash event. We have played squash and also worked as coaches and now we are provided with an opportunity to officiate mega event as referees.

“We are grateful to the Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) and Asian Squash Federation (ASF) and also director referees for providing this opportunity, which will help us utilise our abilities to the best of our knowledge to further enhance our reputation,” they added.

Sharing his views, Asif Khan, who is also coach at Pakistan National Squash Academy in Islamabad, said: “I had the opportunity to perform refereeing duties at Asian and other international events in the past, but to get the chance to act as referee in the Asian Games, which is the second biggest after Olympics, will be a great honour for me and help me improve my refereeing skills.”

He said he is very excited and looking forward to not only conduct matches, but also see his students in action, who will play both team and individual events in the Asian Games. “We have worked for hours and hours with the male and female players, who, if will play according to game plan and their potential, are capable of finishing on the podiums.

“I believe that females are also in very good frame of mind, as both Zafar sisters’ morals are sky-high. They had won all the three Circuit tournaments in between them and now they are eager to excel in the Asian Games as well. Riffat Khan is also very experienced, which will definitely help Pakistan female team a lot,” she added.

Sharing his views, experienced Sajjad Khan said it is a golden opportunity for him to officiate Asian Games matches. “We will also meet top international referees and players, which is very important in squash, as the game is fast changing so as the rules. We have to be highly active to ensure pace with the day-to-day change of rules and other things.”

He said refereeing is an art and a very few people turn their focus towards refereeing because of the fact that there are very less PSA tournaments conducted in Pakistan and one can’t survive if one depends upon refereeing for bread and butter. “In other games, former players become coaches or commentators, while in squash, former players can only become coaches as they don’t have much options. If government pays heed towards improving the living standard of referees, I am sure more and more will become professional referees,” Sajjad concluded.

Sharing his views, Munawwar Zaman said: “It is for the first time that I am given the chance to referee at international stage. I am very happy and looking forward to perform my duties in a highly professional manner and will get chance to further improve my knowledge.”